Downtown tour: The history of El Paso’s first skyscraper

Local News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Edward Kneezell built El Paso’s first skyscraper in 1907 and though it’s not the tallest one anymore, it still holds plenty of history in downtown’s skyline.

The building is currently the BBVA Compass bank building at the corner of Stanton and Franklin streets and was formerly the headquarters for El Paso & Southwestern Railroad Company.

Architect Morris Brown, who is also a member of the Trost Society, which works to increase public awareness of the value and beauty of El Paso’s historic buildings, explained that Kneezell’s building used to be the tallest one in El Paso, soaring seven stories high.

“Yes, there are taller buildings, but over here where it was built, there was nothing like it. It was just by itself,” said Brown, who added that there was a time when El Paso didn’t have many tall buildings downtown.

At the time the building was finished, the railway traffic congested the area with many trains passing by. In the early 1950s, the railway was moved to underground tunnels that went just below and beside Kneezell’s building, Morris explained.

He said the reason why skyscrapers were built, and still are, is to make a statement.

“They wanted to have a sense of ‘we are here,’ we want you to know that we are El Paso and Southwest railroad company,” he said.

The tallest building in El Paso is now the West Star building, standing at 313 feet tall.

Comparing El Paso’s skyline to some other bigger cities in the country shows that the skyscrapers are not as tall, though are still considered skyscrapers. According to The Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, there is no clear definition of how tall a building must be to be considered a skyscraper.

Their parameters state that it is subjective to the city that the building is built in, which means that a skyscraper in El Paso might not qualify as a skyscraper in New York.

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