El Paso’s Chihuahuita and El Segundo Barrio Neighborhoods Named to National Trust’s 2016 11 Most Endangered List
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named the Chihuahuita and El Segundo Barrio Neighborhoods in El Paso, Texas, to its 2016 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This annual list spotlights important examples of the nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. More than 270 sites have been on the list over its 29-year history and, in that time, fewer than five percent of listed sites have been lost.
Located south of Downtown El Paso, the neighborhoods of El Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita reflect the entire span of the city’s history, from the Spanish conquest through the modern era, and are home to an array of impressive historic buildings, including adobe homes that can be traced back to the 1850s, Victorian-era hotels and shops. These neighborhoods—shaped by a long line of people, from legendary healers to Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa and migrant farmworkers to muralists—are where the urbanization of El Paso began. Through El Segundo Barrio’s historic role as the “Ellis Island of the Border,” these El Paso neighborhoods embody the unique transnational character of the city and bring focus to an often overlooked side of the American experience.
Today, a century after the first wave of Mexican families fled the Mexican Revolution and sought refuge in El Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita, the neighborhoods’ urban fabric and Latino and Chicano culture remain essential elements of El Paso’s unique character. However, as El Paso’s development boom continues to expand, El Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita face renewed threats of displacement and demolition. In particular, El Segundo Barrio has no existing protections of any kind. Despite symbolizing El Paso’s cultural identity, the story of these neighborhoods—homes and small businesses that have been in families for generations—remains threatened.
“Neighborhoods like Chihuahuita and El Segundo Barrio help to tell the story of America’s diverse and complex history,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “To better meet the 21st century needs of neighborhood residents, we need to preserve and reuse the places that make these neighborhoods unique. Through direct community engagement, the places that have defined these neighborhoods for so many years can be re-purposed to serve the local community, stimulate economic growth and promote cross-cultural understanding.”
The communities of El Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita have much to contribute to El Paso’s current progress, and the neighborhoods’ historic buildings can lead the way. The National Trust’s ReUrbanism work has demonstrated the ability of older and historic buildings to advance economic development opportunities while also adding to the livability and quality of life for urban residents. Additionally, recent research from the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab shows a clear, quantifiable link between older, smaller commercial buildings and distinctive small businesses, women-and-minority-owned businesses, startups, and creative enterprises. By unleashing the power of older buildings in El Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita, El Paso has the opportunity to preserve the neighborhoods’ past while also improving the long-term well-being of its residents.
Members of the public are invited to learn more about what they can do to support these 11 historic places and hundreds of other endangered sites at SavingPlaces.org/11Most.
The 2016 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places (in alphabetical order):
- Austin’s Lions Municipal Golf Course – Austin, Texas. Widely regarded as the first municipal golf course in the South to desegregate, “Muny” is an unheralded civil rights landmark facing development pressure.
- Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall at Lincoln University – Lincoln, Pa. The oldest building on the campus of the first degree-granting institution in the nation for African Americans, this hallowed building currently stands empty and faces an uncertain future.
- Bears Ears – Southeastern Utah. The 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears cultural landscape features a world-class collection of archaeological sites, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and ancient roads that illuminate 12,000 years of human history yet is now threatened by looting, mismanaged recreational use, and energy development.
- Charleston Naval Hospital District – North Charleston, S.C. The historic district played a prominent role during WWII as a primary re-entry point for American servicemen injured in Europe and Africa. Now threatened by a proposed rail line, this important historic resource is at risk of being largely destroyed.
- Delta Queen – Houma, La. This steamboat was built in 1926 and today is among the last of her kind. Federal legislation that would enable this prestigious ship to return to overnight passenger cruising remains a key piece to securing the Delta Queen’s sustainability and future.
- El Paso’s Chihuahuita and El Segundo Barrio Neighborhoods – El Paso, Texas. These historic neighborhoods form the core of El Paso’s cultural identity, but their homes and small businesses are threatened by demolition.
- Historic Downtown Flemington – Flemington, N.J. Historic buildings at the core of the town that hosted the ‘Trial of the Century,’ the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial, are threatened by a development proposal that would demolish the iconic Union Hotel along with three other adjacent historic buildings.
- James River - James City County, Va.Jamestown, America’s first permanent English settlement, was founded along the banks of the James River in 1607. The river and landscape, also named to this list by the Trust in 2013, remain threatened by a proposed transmission line project that would compromise the scenic integrity of this historic area.
- Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes - Milwaukee, Wis. A beloved Milwaukee institution for generations, a unique engineering marvel and a highly significant example of midcentury modern architecture, the Milwaukee Domes are facing calls for their demolition.
- San Francisco Embarcadero – San Francisco, Calif. The City by the Bay's iconic waterfront is beloved by residents and visitors alike, but needs long-term planning to address the dual natural threats of sea level rise and seismic vulnerability.
- Sunshine Mile – Tucson, Ariz. This two-mile corridor on Tucson’s Broadway Boulevard features one of the most significant concentrations of historic mid-century modern architecture in the Southwest. This unique collection of properties face threats from a transportation project that would require demolition.
America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places has identified more than 270 threatened one-of-a-kind historic treasures since 1988. Whether these sites are urban districts or rural landscapes, Native American landmarks or 20th-century sports arenas, entire communities or single buildings, the list spotlights historic places across America that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy. The designation has been a powerful tool for raising awareness and rallying resources to save endangered sites from every region of the country. At times, that attention has garnered public support to quickly rescue a treasured landmark; while in other instances, it has been the impetus of a long battle to save an important piece of our history.