El Paso (population 563,662) is located on the Rio Grande River bordering Mexico. The Spanish first colonized the area in the late 16th century. Missions were established during the late 17th century, and, by the late 18th century, a Spanish presidio had been built. The El Paso area came under American control at the end of the end of the Mexican War when the Rio Grande became the border between the United States and Mexico.
The area that is now the downtown was platted in 1859. In 1881, the railroads came, bringing rapid development and growth. During this initial boom period, the community had a “Wild West” reputation based on the exploits of famous and infamous gunfighters, cattle rustlers, marshals, and Texas Rangers. After 1900, El Paso began to shed its frontier image and develop as a modern municipality and significant industrial, commercial, and transportation center.
One of El Paso’s recent preservation success stories is rehabilitation of the Plaza Theatre (1930). Built in an extravagant Spanish Colonial Revival style, the theatre embodies the unique bi-cultural character of the region. The City of El Paso and the El Paso Community Foundation have partnered on the $26.5 million project. The building will house a state-of-the art performing arts center.
El Paso promotes heritage tourism through participation in regional initiatives. The El Paso Community Foundation has founded the Pass of the North Heritage Corridor, a bi-national and tri-state initiative. The city is also active in the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Mountain Trail heritage trail.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2005.