Boost For Historical Status Of Las Cruces Community Center

Apr 21, 2013

  The president of Mesilla Valley Preservation, Inc., Eric Liefeld, will present representatives of the City of Las Cruces with a copy of a newspaper article confirming that the Frank O'Brien Papen Community Center was designed in 1907 by a widely respected architectural firm of that time, Trost and Trost.

"Henry C. Trost, and the renowned architectural firm of Trost & Trost, shaped much of the architecture of the Southwest and the Mesilla Valley,” Liefeld said. “Mesilla Valley Preservation is thrilled to be doing this research and bringing a deserving focus to both lost and surviving Trost & Trost structures."

The presentation will take place Monday, April 22, 10 a.m. at the Frank O'Brien Papen Community Center, 304 Bell Ave.

Margaret Smith, a granddaughter of Gustavus Trost and grand-niece of Henry Trost, discovered the article among family archives and shared it with Liefeld on Thursday, April 18. Liefeld then shared the information with Greg Smith, city councillor for District 2 where the Papen Center is located.

"We were afraid that the last Trost structure in the district was demolished in 2008. The newspaper evidence establishes that we still have at least one left, and perhaps one or two more will be found as research continues," Smith said.

The most notable Trost designs still standing in this community are two buildings on the NMSU campus, which is surrounded by Las Cruces but not included in it. The Honors Building and the old gymnasium join Horseshoe Circle as the last of the Trost designs on what was the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts 100 years ago. Other Trost buildings, most notably Old Main, gone since 1957, have been lost over the years on the campus, according to Smith.

The Town of Mesilla recently celebrated the reopening of the Mesilla Community Center with a ribbon cutting. A highlight of the event was the surprise announcement that the building had been designed by Trost and Trost in 1910. When it opened its doors that year, the building was a school, just as the Papen Center was in 1907. The Trost architectural firm reportedly designed more than 200 schools across three or more states in the first third of the 20th century.

According to Councillor Smith, while at least three Trost-designed homes still stand in the Alameda/Picacho area, the inventory has been reduced from a high point in the early 1930s. He says gone are the Hotel Herndon (Rouault) at the corner of Main Street and Griggs Avenue, the Masonic Temple at the corner of Griggs and Church Street, the Armory on Griggs just west of Alameda Boulevard, and Grandview School between Lohman Avenue and Amador Avenue.  Smith says others will surely join the "gone" list as research continues, but so also will there be discoveries that some, until now unattributed buildings still standing, are part of the Trost architectural legacy in this community.

"We are learning more about what was happening in Las Cruces architecturally just prior to and after statehood in 1912, and that feels like a Centennial gift that keeps on giving," Smith said.