Storied Local Establishments in El Paso – Our Top Five
El Paso, "The Pass to the North", has a long history with many famous people and events. Some of the buildings in and around the area have a fantastic story and history themselves, and in case you haven't wandered inside these buildings, this might be a good time to go check them out!
We've picked a few of the ones we really like and have a great history in the area. Stop by and see them!
Begun in the 1600's
After the founding of Santa Fe in 1609, El Paso became critical in the journey north and south to the interior of Mexico for communication and trade. A Franciscan Father Custodian Alonso de Benavides recommended a mission be built in El Paso to convert and settle the Mansos, and to develop the mines and farms.
The missions ministered to the Mansos, built new and more permanent buildings, and by 1680, the missions ministered to over 2,000 Native Americans.
After the Pueblo Revolt, Mexico named El Paso the capital of New Mexico, and then there was revolt in El Paso due to the widespread famine caused by the sudden influx of people.
Now, the Missions stand as archeological and educational sites, and some still host Catholic services and serve the communities.
Opened in 1926
The Cortez Hotel was the last of the buildings at its location. The Hotel Vendome was built and then torn down to make way for the Hotel Orndorff, which was then torn down to make way for the New Hotel Orndorff!
Apparently, someone realized that Hotel Orndorff sounded a little dorky and not fitting to the area, so they then destroyed THAT one for the new Cortez Hotel. Designed as a elaborate Spanish Colonial Revival Style building, it features portrait heads of Conquistadores staring out above the first floor.
The Cortez Hotel was advertised as a "Castle of Old Spain on the Plaza of El Paso" and opened on September 10, 1926.
On June 5, 1963, President Kennedy stayed at the Cortez Hotel, where he met with VP Lyndon Johnson and Texas Governor John Connally about his trip to Dallas in November. He should have just come back to El Paso, instead.
Opened in 1930
By the late 1920's, El Paso was a growing metropolis, with over 100,000 people, two airports, trolley system and all the conveniences of a major city.
The Plaza Theatre opened it's door on September 12, 1930 to a sold out crowd of 2,410 people. It was billed as the largest theatre of its kind between Dallas and Los Angeles, and could present movies or stage shows. It was the most elaborate and technically advanced theatre of its kind in the area, and even had a $60,000 Mighty Wurlitzer Organ that elevated from the orchestra pit to accompany the Vaudeville shows!
Made famous in 1959
Rosa's Cantina has been around longer than anyone can remember, as both a bar and restaurant. No one outside of El Paso had ever heard of the place until, in 1959, Marty Robbins' released the first of his musical trilogy, "El Paso". The song wa the first song to hit #1 on the pop charts in 1960, and earned him his first Grammy Award.
Lesser known is that Marty released two more songs to continue the story of Feleena, called "Feleena" and "El Paso City".
Manwhile, Rosa's has continued on through the success of the song and the sudden notoriety, and has continued to serve good food and drinks even today! Oscar and Patricia Lopez took over Rosa's in 2007 and continue the tradition, offering live music and now dinner!
Formal Dedication in 1963
Since the U.S. had taken over the area, there had been disputes with Mexico about exactly where the border between the two countries lie. There was much discussion and debate, but finally on August 31, 1964, U.S. Ambassador Thomas C. Mann and Mexican Foreign Minister Manuel Tello signed the Chamizal Treaty, granting Mexico 630 acres of what had been South El Paso, and establishing the border lines.
On September 25th, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Adolfo Lopez Mateos met here to formally acknowledge the exchange in territory. Then in 1973, the Chamizal National Memorial was dedicated to the peaceful settlement of the land dispute between the two countries.
Now, the Chamizal is home to a beautiful park, Music Under The Stars, and great exhibitions and galleries. Heck, President Obama even gave a now famously parodied speech at the Chamizal! If you haven't been recently, stop by and check it out!