Introduction to Henry Trost in Tucson

Henry Charles Trost’s Contribution to Tucson Architecture

Henry C. Trost moved to Tucson Arizona in 1899 at the age of 39. He only resided in Tucson for four years, yet in this short period he contributed significantly to the architecture of the young town. Tucson was still transitioning from pre-railroad building materials such as adobe and local timbers. Henry was schooled in the Chicago style and practiced various styles influenced by Mission Revival, Prairie, and Pueblo Revival. Over his 35-year career he designed approximately 200 buildings across Arizona, New Mexico and significantly later in his time in El Paso.

It is unfortunate that a figure of such influence is now nearly forgotten and so much of his design work is apparently lost from the records of the towns for which he contributed an architectural renaissance. His inital commissions were for larger projects; however, he did add significantly to many landmark residences for the well-heeled citizens of their time. Over time he graduated to larger and larger projects like hotels, courthouses, high schools, and eventually to the high-rise skylines of downtowns, primarily turn of the century El Paso Texas, but also Phoenix Arizona, and Albuquerque New Mexico. The best overview of his body of work can be reviewed at The only in-depth book solely on his life and work seems to be Henry C. Trost Architect of the Southwest, 1981, by Lloyd C. and June-Marie F. Engelbrecht.

Due the age of Trost buildings, many have been demolished. A few prime examples in Tucson are the Santa Rita Hotel, Sisters of St Joseph’s Orphanage, and the Consolidated National Bank. It is my conjecture that in his day, the contribution of the designer/architect was to supply well-crafted hand drawings that outlined the floor plans and facades of the buildings. Surely dimensions and artist drawings of the embellishments were provided to his clients. However due to the sheer volume of work that he and his few associates produced for so many grand buildings, nearly 50 in Tucson, it is assumed that it was primarily the duty of the construction companies to procure good materials, execute the plans based on their skills, and therefore determine the quality of the structures. Whether a building can remain standing for over 100 years depends on the superiority of the construction as much of its timeless ascetic.

When Trost was first producing designs in Tucson, David Hull Holmes was teaching mechanical arts and drawing at the young Territorial University of Arizona. As a student of Mission style, he was soon commissioned to design the Herring Building at the University of Arizona. He retired from the University in 1905 and formed Holmes and Holmes with his brother. An admirer of Trost needs to also acknowledge this firm’s contribution to the continuance of pre-1915 Mission style buildings in Tucson after Trost moved on to his Texas practice. Trost did continue to provide some Tucson designs working from Texas, and the train ride was only half a day away on the Southern Pacific.

It very much worth one’s time if traveling through southern Texas to spend half a day admiring the remaining El Paso art deco skyscrapers of Henry Trost. Many remain on the verge of destruction as the owners and city must decide if renovation or replacement of the buildings provide greater financial value.

Greg Smith May 11, 2020