EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — In Downtown El Paso, a beautiful building sits quietly. At 104 years old, it has lived a vibrant life and helped create the American dream for many.

The building was home to The Popular Dry Goods Company founded in 1902 by Adolph Schwartz, an immigrant who arrived in the United States by boat in New York.

His great-grandson Stuart Schwartz recalls his family’s business and history taking root in Juárez and later translating into a well-known store throughout the Southwest.

“He came here and started a store in Juarez,” Schwartz said.

The store was called Los Tres Bs, which stood for bueno (good), bonito (pretty), and barato (cheap).

After nearly a decade later, Adolph Schwartz, together with his nephew Maurice Schwartz and other investors established the Popular Dry Goods Co., a two-story building at the intersection of Overland and South El Paso Street.

Adolph Schwartz was appointed president.

The store’s location would change once more, to where it is now. In 1911, Adolph Schwartz purchased the Masonic Building Lodge at the northeast corner of San Antonio Avenue and Mesa Street.

He soon decided to replace it with a bigger and better building. It was the perfect job for Trost and Trost Architects. The firm was founded by brothers Henry C. Trost and Gustavus Trost in 1903. Five years later, they were joined by a third brother, engineer Adolphus Trost.

The three men designed over 600 buildings, 39 of them in Downtown El Paso.

Like most other commercial Trost buildings, The Popular Department building is a high-rise. Its interior structure is a reinforced concrete skeleton. Architectural historian Troy Ainsworth said the building is inspired by the high-rises in Chicago.

“Read the building and there’s a lot going on,” Ainsworth said. “From the street up to the cornice.”

The building’s exterior walls are decorated with elegant classical ornament in beautiful white tile. The elevation consists of large, ground-level display windows. A soaring multi-level shaft allows for additional retail space and offices. It also has a gorgeous cornice above with intricate details inspired by ancient Greece and Rome.

“You have to think about it creatively, but it is a reinterpretation of classical Roman or Greek columns,” Ainsworth said.

The rich handcrafted reliefs, friezes and capitals reflect the prestige of the bu8siness that was housed wihtin.

When the Popular Department Store was completed, the building stood with nearly 123,000 feet of floor space.

“It was a full department store from high fashion to discount,” Stuart Schwartz said.

The store carried national brands of clothing of clothing, furniture, jewelry and housewares to many in the borderland. Stuart Schwartz said a lot of the business was from Mexico and many shoppers would cross the border to visit the store.

The atmosphere, he said, was friendly. Edi Brannon, granddaughter of one of the store’s founders, was its former and final president.

“It felt like you were home,” Brannon said. “We called our store members family.”

Brannon says the stores hired people from all backgrounds.

“We were the first to hire African-Americans in the Southwest, maybe in Texas,” Brannon said.

Employees were able to buy stock and ownership stake in the store.

The Popular Building now home to Fallas Paredes is a reminder of El Paso’s burgeoning as a large city in the American Southwest.

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