Dear Friends and Media,
I have attached a picture I took today of the Silver Dollar Cafe. Located at 1021 S. Mesa Street, just south of Olivas V. Aoy Avenue, it is a rather undistinguished building that was erected about 1919. Like so many tenements in the Segundo Barrio, the building once housed immigrants fleeing the violence of the Mexican Revolution across the border, but in the 1930s it was converted into a brothel. Today it is again a tenement.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 as no. 86002618. It is the only urban barrio structure in all of El Paso that is on the National Register of Historic Places–an egregious historical injustice that defies explanation.
You see, the City of El Paso has always seen our urban barrios as places for its version of “redevelopment” and “revitalization”–that is, mass demolition. It has strategically avoided creating historic districts in areas where major campaign donors have business interests.
Meanwhile, the City has heavily incentivized the rehabilitation of the iconic historic buildings in the area of San Jacinto Plaza, where developers have scooped up most of the Trost buildings as well as the Kress.
But what about the Segundo Barrio, which has been a culturally rich working-class neighborhood since its creation in 1885 and is full of architectural treasures?
There was one City attempt, in 1980, to create a South El Paso Street Historic District that would have included El Paso Street and Oregon Street between downtown and the border–including a good chunk of the Segundo Barrio–but the politicians apparently caved to developers and the project was aborted. (map attached)
By contrast, the County has a strong record of supporting historic preservation in our barrios. The Commissioners Court spearheaded the plan to establish the Segundo Barrio National Register Historic District in 2016, which the City had rejected the previous year, and that will come to fruition by the end of the summer. Thankfully, Mayor Leeser sent the THC a letter of support for the project.
With the creation of the new Segundo Barrio historic district, the number buildings in the neighborhood eligible for historic tax credits will rise from one to 686!
Hopefully the City will begin to understand the cultural and historical value of our urban barrios–yes, including Duranguito–and will join the County in its strategic plan to revitalize them in a way that respects both the people and the architecture.
Enjoy your evening.