Friendship Square

By: Vicki L. Ruiz

Type: General Entry

Published: September 1, 1995

The name Friendship Square was given to a community services complex that the Methodist Church founded in 1912 at Fifth and Tays streets in the Segundo Barrio in El Paso, Texas. The cornerstone of the square was the Rose Gregory Houchen Settlement House (now Houchen Community Center), which provided educational and health services to the Mexicano residents in the district. Methodist women missionaries and lay volunteers staffed the Houchen House and followed a Progressive era curriculum that emphasized vocational education, English, citizenship, cooking, and hygiene. The settlement house also operated a bilingual kindergarten and preschool. To promote its mission of "Christian Americanization," the Houchen staff regularly scheduled an array of Bible classes, and until the 1950s its explicit goal was to create a Protestant enclave within the barrio. By World War II, Friendship Square included the Houchen House, El Buen Pastor Church, the Houchen Day Nursery, and Newark Methodist Maternity Hospital. The main focus of Friendship Square has been health care. Methodist missionaries provided the first accessible, professional health care in the barrio. In 1921 Freeman Clinic was opened next door to the settlement house, and in 1937 Newark Methodist Maternity Hospital was added. Newark specialized in obstetrics and pediatrics, and relied on volunteer physicians, local staff, and nurses trained as missionaries. Patients paid for services on a sliding scale and on installment plans. From 1937 to 1976 more than 12,000 babies were born at Newark Hospital. By the 1950s, Friendship Square had become more ecumenical and its staffing more reflective of the population it served. The institution dropped its emphasis on Protestant conversion, and Catholic priests were allowed to baptize hospitalized infants. Latina missionaries acted as cultural brokers and willingly listened to their clients. Increasingly, local residents served as lay volunteers. For most Mexican women, Friendship Square was primarily a medical and social-service center, with health care and children's programs the most popular offerings. In 1986 the Methodist Church, citing rising insurance costs, closed Newark Hospital. In 1993 the Houchen Community Center of Friendship Square operated one of El Paso's largest nursery schools and offered a wide variety of educational programs. See also SETTLEMENT HOUSES.

El Paso Herald Post, March 7, 12, 1961. El Paso Times, August 8, 1983. Files, Houchen Community Center, El Paso. Vicki L. Ruiz, "Dead Ends or Gold Mines: Using Missionary Records in Mexican American Women's History," Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies 12 (1991). "South El Paso's `Oasis of Care'," Paso del Norte 1 (September 1982).
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Religion
  • Methodist
  • Health and Medicine
  • Homes and Orphanages
  • Hospitals, Clinics, and Medical Centers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Vicki L. Ruiz, “Friendship Square,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995

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