A Legacy for Our Future: A Brief Biography of Henry C. Trost – Trost Society

A Legacy for Our Future: A Brief Biography of Henry C. Trost

by Christopher M. Gonzalez March 5, 2016
Henry C. Trost

Amongst the pristine silence of Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso, Texas lies a man who molded the Southwest into the iconic treasure which still endures today. Throughout history, the region has always been one of fledgling opportunity; Henry C. Trost arrived in the area just as it began to flourish. With the support of equally industrious visionaries, the landscape of this city and those surrounding was shaped in ways that accentuated its unique character. Today, 156 years after his birth, the true potential of his landmarks within our modern world is about to be realized.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Henry was the son of first generation German immigrants. He was the product of modest beginnings in the pursuit of the American dream. After graduation, he began working as an artist. He began his foray into architecture working for a firm in Denver in the year 1880. For the better part of that decade he contributed to various buildings in the region, although his level of contribution is questionable. In 1888 he moved to Chicago, it is here that he acquired the art-deco style which can be seen in many of the buildings of downtown El Paso. While in Illinois, he became a member of The Chicago Sketch Club. It is within this organization that he met with influential architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. From 1892-1896, Trost was Vice President of Chicago Ornamental Iron Company, which is remembered for its contributions to the Lafayette Square Opera House in Washington D.C.

In 1899, he moved to Tuscon, Arizona where he commissioned the Owls Club, the first building carrying his name. Soon after, he partnered with Robert Rust to build the Carnegie Public Library along with several other buildings in Tuscon. He moved to El Paso to join his brother in 1903, and the Trost & Trost architectural firm was officially listed in the City Directory as of 1904. By 1908, his firm began to pioneer the use of reinforced concrete with the creation of the Anson Mills building, and over the next 30 years his career gained exponential momentum. Until his death on September 19, 1933, Trost & Trost was responsible for the creation of dozens of various structures in El Paso. Some of the more noteworthy include the Caples Building, the Popular Department Store, the White House Department Store, El Paso High School, the County Court House, the Hotel Cortez, the O.T. Basset Tower, and the Plaza hotel.

As a result of the upcoming historical survey, individuals seeking to repurpose these structures will have a massive incentive to do so. In the coming years, many of these structures will once again be imbued with life and his legacy will carry on to a new generation. Trost’s contribution to the Southwest is hard to quantify, seeing as to how it will only become more influential in the years to come. This sentiment is reflected in his obituary from the El Paso times:

“He was one who let himself be known by his works, rather than his words, one who made a valid and lasting contribution to the development of this great region. His was a life of purpose and achievement, and he leaves the Southwest richer for his having lived and worked in it.” – El Paso Times 1933

  • Christopher Gonzalez, 2016