September 15, 2017
The El Paso County Historical Society (EPCHS) was founded in 1954 by residents concerned with protecting El Paso’s historical and cultural heritage. Today, the Society works to preserve, protect, and share El Paso’s history with the public. It is for this reason that we release the following statement regarding the events taking place in the Union Plaza Neighborhood, popularly known as “Duranguito.”
The El Paso County Historical Society favors the preservation of the Union Plaza Neighborhood, one of El Paso’s earliest settlements. Dating back over 160 years, it appears in the original 1859 plat of El Paso, and has housed residents, businesses, parks, and factories. It was planned before El Paso was incorporated and before the railroads arrived. Many of the structures possess historical value, and several have been suggested as additions to the National Register of Historic Places by a study commissioned by the City of El Paso in 1998, and by the preliminary findings of an historical and architectural survey being conducted by the County of El Paso.
The unfortunate conflict currently seen in the Union Plaza Neighborhood is damaging to this community. We urge the City of El Paso to foster an open dialogue between residents, historical organizations and historians, business leaders, stakeholders, and the community at large. Community participation should be paramount from the beginning of any development project undertaken. Community representatives should be part of every step of the process, not just as invited guests, but as sitting members of decision making committees. That will solidify buy-in from the community and create development the entire community desires and supports.
Furthermore, we implore the City of El Paso to take historic preservation into account in its development policies and future planning. Historic preservation can be the basis of economic and community development, benefitting all El Pasoans. It can create economic opportunities from which cities like Santa Fe, San Antonio, and Waco have profited as a result of their preservation efforts.
Ultimately, the El Paso County Historical Society will continue to be an educational resource in the Southwest. Our archive of over 20,000 photos, thousands of documents, hundreds of maps and books, and scores of artifacts is open to all who wish to use it.
We look forward to working with all members of the community to preserve this region’s legacy and to foster economic development using our rich historical resources.