About the Texas Trost Society
The Texas Trost Society is a 501(c)3 organization. Its mission is to promote the legacy of Henry C. Trost, one of the most iconic architects of the American Southwest, and educate the public about the architectural patrimony of our region.
El Paso is the 19th largest city in the United States, yet it is one of the poorest in Texas with a 24% poverty rate, compared to 19% in Ft. Worth and Austin as of 2015. It is also one of the lowest performing tourist destinations in Texas, only attracting 2.1% of tourist dollars in 2013 despite a long history. The areas surrounding our historic core have even higher poverty rates, with 94% of residents being of Hispanic origin and the median income being below $10,000 per resident (as of 2015). Many members of the downtown community live in run-down buildings and have few job opportunities located close to home.
Many El Paso families are of Hispanic descent and have lived in the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez borderland for generations. It is imperative that these residents develop a stronger awareness of the rich heritage of the region and the historical events that took place while their ancestors were living here, as this will not only instill a greater appreciation of their roots but will provide them with an understanding of the importance of preserving their heritage. As our historic buildings continue to run the risk of becoming demolished, it is necessary that the general public understand how they are affected too. It is our hope that as a result of our tours and educational programming, El Paso residents will feel empowered to take ownership of their city’s future and the decisions made by their local city representatives.
Settlement in El Paso began in 1598, and by the early 20th century the city was a teeming metropolis fueled by international trade. Of the hundreds of commercial edifices built in downtown between 1900 and 1930, more than 38 were designed by Trost & Trost architects, and of the 28 still standing, six continue to dominate the skyline as the most iconic buildings in the city. From 1970 to 2010, downtown El Paso steadily lost businesses, restaurants, retail stores, and residents as the majority of the community wanted to move to the city’s East and West sides in order to have more space. Urban sprawl seemed to improve the quality of life for some residents, but like many of America’s small to medium-sized cities, those still living and working in downtown saw rent prices drop drastically and buildings began to go into disrepair.
Now, the majority of El Paso’s historic core is blighted to the point of becoming a public safety issue. In the past five years, however, some real estate developers have started to make decisions about what to do, usually falling into one of two categories: buy historic buildings in order to restore them or demolish them in favor of building parking lots and strip malls. For the past three years, the Texas Trost Society has worked with other cultural and historical organizations in order to try and convince building owners that restoring historic structures not only saves what’s left of El Paso’s history, but has enormous economic benefits. Heritage tourism dollars generate $7.3 billion in economic activity in Texas, supporting 79,000 jobs and millions in state and local tax revenue. The city government has put a lot of emphasis on hosting events downtown, but so far these events have done little to show building owners that a stable economy can exist in the historic district despite attracting tens of thousands of people.
Board of Directors
Mr. J.P. Bryan is the Founder of Torch Energy Advisors (Torch) and served as its Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Bryan directs the overall strategic vision of Torch. A past president of the Texas State Historical Association, which publishes The Handbook of Texas, and the Texas Historical Foundation, which researches and restores structures, and a former member of the executive committee of the Texas Historical Commission, Bryan is “obsessed,” some say, with Texas history and architecture.
Mr. Lane Gaddy, Treasurer, is owner and redeveloper of the historic Trost-designed Bassett Tower in downtown El Paso, which is the future site of the Downtown El Paso Aloft hotel, the first Starwood product along the Texas/Mexico border. He is also owner and redeveloper of the historic Martin and Banner buildings.
Dr. Max Grossman is Associate Professor of Art History at The University of Texas at El Paso. He is Coordinator of the El Paso History Alliance and chairs the Texas Trost Society’s Architectural Preservation Committee, whose mission is to formulate and implement strategies for protecting the architectural heritage of El Paso while promoting the economic development of the designated historic districts of both the city and county.
Mr. Joseph V. Riccillo is Project Director for Sundt Construction Companies. Joe has more than 15 years of project management experience and is responsible for overseeing business development, planning, budgets and staffing for Sundt’s construction jobs in and around El Paso and Southern New Mexico.
Mr. Carl E. Ryan, the Vice-Chairman, is a partner in the Kemp Smith LLP’s Business Department focusing his practice on estate planning, probate and trust matters, gift and estate tax planning and exempt organizations, foundations and related charitable issues.
Mr. Bernie Sargent, Chairman of the Board for the Trost Society serves on the boards for seven other El Paso- based organizations including BOAC and Keystone Heritage Park. He is also co-owner of Border Group and Sargent Inventory Services.
Mrs. Margaret Smith is the granddaughter of Gustavus Trost and great-niece of Henry C. Trost. She is the Trost family archivist and founder of www.henrytrost.org, the only website providing a complete list of buildings designed by the firm Trost & Trost. She conducts research on Trost buildings and educates the public about her family’s legacy.
Mr. Doug Yost, has worked as an engineer, designer, and builder for over 30 years. He also has 20 years of experience in the historic preservation field, supervising or consulting on hundreds of historic preservation projects, including several Trost homes.