While El Paso is no longer the wild west city of yesteryear, it’s still an incredible blend of old versus new. Downtown buildings, many well over one hundred years old, are blended in with new architecture and the redesigned San Jacinto Plaza and newly built Southwest University Park (home of the minor league El Paso Chihuahuas). As if that’s not enough, the city is bringing back the old trollies that have been stored for years in the desert! That’s just part of reason I really love El Paso, it’s changing and you can feel it! It’s easy to spend the day out shooting with a camera walking the downtown area. As a history buff, it’s not difficult to appreciate El Paso’s rich culture and story which is literally everywhere. Downtown EP never fails when looking for photo opportunities. The photo at the top of this page, called El Paso, was taken from Scenic Drive on the Franklin Mountains. The photo at left is called Oregon Street, and shows US Interstate 10 which passes through the downtown area.
When talking about the gunfighters of the old west, nobody was more feared than John Wesley Hardin; he is considered “the most deadly of the Old West’s gunmen.” Hardin was “the best shot, the fastest draw, an excellent horseman and the deadliest gunman in the West—and not simply through hearsay.” He had killed well over 30 men and his abilities with handguns is well documented, nobody came close in terms of his lethality with a pistol. Hardin was killed by a shot to the back of his head by John Selman at the Acme Saloon at 274 E. San Antonio Street in downtown El Paso. The Minister called to care for Hardin’s body said if Selman had shot Hardin through the eye from the front, “it would be remarkably good marksmanship,” and if Selman had shot him from behind, “it was probably remarkably good judgment.”(1) This photo, called Concordia, is John Wesley Hardin’s grave at Concordia Cemetery.
Another older building still in use in downtown El Paso is the Plaza theater. Big name acts routinely perform at this theater which was built in 1930 with the “intention of doing something good for the city of El Paso.” When it opened it was “advertised as the largest theater of its kind between Dallas and Los Angeles” and was the first public theater in the US to have air conditioning. However, the Plaza finally closed in 1974 and was slated to be demolished in favor of a parking lot in 1986. The Plaza had become “one of the nation’s largest non-functioning theaters.” Finally, after a $38 million face lift, the theater reopened in 2006 and has been providing quality entertainment for El Paso ever since.(2) This photo is called The Plaza.
In addition to the historic buildings, downtown EP has become home to some new architecture as well. This is something I really like about El Paso, while having one foot firmly placed in its history it still has one foot in the future going forward. The Wells-Fargo Plaza can be seen below on the left, this building is a sort of reference point whenever I’m out walking the downtown area. I shot this photo one night with light traffic last year, it’s called EP at Night. Below, the top right photo, called Texas Sky, is the El Paso County Courthouse, yet another modern and very cool looking structure. Finally, the below bottom right photo, called History, is the El Paso Museum of History and is definitely worth the trip as well and makes for a colorful night shot. Another aspect of El Paso I may shoot in the future is the food. After living and traveling for many years in Europe and Asia, I have a spot in my stomach for “mom-n-pop” joints or the local “hole in the walls.” El Paso definitely has a food vibe I’ve close to what I’ve experienced in Europe or New Orleans for that matter.
Since my first visit to El Paso in 2006 to get married, I’ve found it to be a city that definitely grows on you! I’ve seen and heard complaining about how bad El Paso is from younger people, I’ve even seen some with “Hell Paso” stickers on their computers at Starbucks… I remind myself that they’ve probably not traveled much and are basing this opinion off never having left the city. The grass is always greener, till you’ve experienced the “greener” and seen that sometimes it’s not all you thought it would be. El Paso has a lot going for it in my opinion, not to mention, it’s also in a great location for traveling the the southwest United States; White Sands National Monument is a short trip to the north and Carlsbad Caverns National Park to the east. With nearby wineries, craft beer spots, minor league baseball, University of Texas at El Paso sports (UTEP), museums, great food & culture, plus very nice people, El Paso is a great place to call home. It’s also a great place to break out a camera every now and then.