Segundo Barrio Historic District opens opportunity for Sacred Heart Church restoration


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – An idea to recognize the historical significance of Segundo Barrio and hundreds of properties in the community are now a reality.

Nearly 700 properties are part of a Segundo Barrio Historic District, which is designated by the National Park Services. The community and its building’s are now part of one of the biggest historic districts in the country, according to the county and local historians.

And, while the designation is largely a recognition of the historical significance of buildings, it is being treated as a spotlight on Segundo Barrio and its roots – a history known as the “Ellis Island of the Border.”

“I am very proud of the fact that I was able to be involved in this,” El Paso County Commissioner of Precinct 2 David Stout said. “It’s been something long in the works. I think our local historians started talking about this 10 or 11 years ago.”

It’s been a long road for efforts to recognize the neighborhood.

The city had initial plans to initiate the research and application to create the historic district in 2015. But the City Council eventually voted against the idea.

At the time, the El Paso County Commissioners Court took up the idea and began researching efforts to apply for the district. At first, the county proposed creating a district with nearly 1,000 properties. But with advice from historians and the Texas Historical Commission, the proposal was broken into two.

The second district application, a proposal for Downtown properties, remains pending as more than half of property owners within its boundaries have spoke out in opposition of its creation.

Historic designations are generally honorary and do not come with limitations on property owners. They also provide federal tax credits for owners to renovate their properties with assistance from the state and federal government.

Already, there are plans to renovate one of the oldest buildings in the district. With state tax credits, about 25 percent, or $1 million, will be used to help renovate Sacred Heart Catholic Church, according to planners.

Much of Segundo Barrio’s history can be traced back to the founding of El Paso in the late 1800s. Some of the bricks that hold up Sacred Heart Catholic Church are more than 100 years old.

“Interesting enough, if you look at the history of Segundo Barrio at one point in the 19th century, was part of Mexico because the Rio Grande was on Paisano…so, this area is very unique and I think it’s Ellis Island.”

Father Rafael Garcia of Sacred Heart

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