EL PASO, Texas --- As El Paso County continues to seek a historic designation for the entire downtown El Paso, it is considering submitting a separate application to seek historic designation for one of El Paso's most iconic neighborhoods.
El Segundo Barrio, or the Second Ward, dates back to the late 1880s when the City of El Paso was divided into four political district and the neighborhood housed the majority of Mexican Americans living in El Paso. Its population grew during the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th Century, a period that turned the neighborhood into a hub of activity during that historically significant time.
"The real historic significance is the people who have struggled against tremendous odds; many of whom have overcome huge barriers while others have been lost in the shadows," reads a neighborhood development plan drafted by the City of El Paso in 2009. "El Segundo Barrio is a deep-rooted neighborhood where generations of El Pasoans are able to map out their family’s beginnings in the United States," the report reads.
The neighborhood boundaries are Paisano Drive to the North, Cesar Chavez Memorial Highway to the South, Cotton Street to the East, and the alley between Mesa and Stanton to the West.
Despite those revitalization efforts, the The National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2016 admitted the Segundo Barrio and Chihuahuita neighborhoods to its annual list of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” in the United States. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a 70-year privately-funded non-profit that works to revitalize imperiled buildings and areas.
The county's process, however, is aiming at historic designation from the National Parks Service's National Register of Historic Places. A county spokesperson told ABC-7 the
The county had conducted a downtown historical architectural survey back in 2017 along with HHM, an architectural firm. The county submitted the draft survey to the state for their feedback “and they came up with some pretty drastic changes to the original draft survey which included a large proposed district for all of Downtown El Paso,” said Heritage Tourism Coordinator Valerie Venecia, with the county’s economic development office.
“The recommendation from the State Historic Preservation Office is that we shrink down the boundaries for the proposed El Paso historic district and nominate Segundo Barrio separately," Venecia said.
During Tuesday’s historical commission meeting, the economic development office told historical commissioners that the National Register of Historic Places would likely not accept the county's submission if they did not go by the state's recommendation.
The county historical commission decided to abide by the state's recommendations which will be presented to county commissioners. They will make the final decision to submit two separate submissions and likely adjust contract terms with HHM.