Trost, Henry Charles (1860–1933)

By: Mary A. Sarber

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: January 23, 2019

Henry C. Trost, architect, son of Ernst and Wilhelmina (Frank) Trost, was born in Toledo, Ohio, on March 5, 1860. His father, who immigrated from Germany in the early 1850s, was a carpenter and building contractor. Henry Trost attended art school and worked as an architectural draftsman in Toledo until 1880. He then moved west and during the following eight years worked in Denver, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Fort Worth, Galveston, New Orleans, and Dodge City. From 1888 to 1896 he was a designer of ornamental metal in Chicago, where he was greatly influenced by the work of Louis H. Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as by the California Building at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, which introduced the Mission Revival style. Trost returned briefly to Colorado Springs in 1896 and then moved on to Tucson, Arizona, in 1899. Here his interest in Mission Revival was reinforced by the early-eighteenth-century Spanish colonial mission of San Xavier del Bac. In 1903 he moved for the last time, to El Paso. His brother, Gustavus Adolphus Trost, had arrived there in 1902 to superintend the construction of the Carnegie Library and no doubt convinced Henry that El Paso was an advantageous location for a fledgling architectural firm. Henry and Gustavus formed Trost and Trost, assisted by their nephew George Ernest Trost. Gustavus's twin brother, Adolphus Gustavus Trost, a structural engineer, joined the firm in 1908.

The firm was immediately successful. No building was too large or too small for it, from bungalows and one-room schoolhouses to reinforced concrete skyscrapers. Commissions came in from throughout the region. Trost and Trost designed at least 300 buildings in El Paso as well as additional hundreds through West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Notable among these are the Hotel Paso del Norte (El Paso, 1912), the Mills Building (El Paso, 1911), Bassett Tower (El Paso, 1930), Trost's own residence (El Paso, 1909), El Paso High School (El Paso, 1916), San Angelo City Hall (San Angelo, 1928), El Paisano Hotel (Marfa, 1930), and the high-rise addition to the Driskill Hotel (Austin, 1930). For thirty years Henry Trost was chief designer of the firm as well as patriarch of the family. He never married. After his death in El Paso on September 19, 1933, the brothers continued the firm until the early 1950s, but few buildings of significance were designed during this later period. Trost's contribution as an architect is significant not only for the number of buildings he produced, but for the ease and virtuosity with which he worked in virtually every current style, from Victorian to Art Deco. He also was among the first consciously to design buildings adapted to the desert region he called "Arid America." In his own residence he adapted the Prairie School style to the rigors of high temperatures and hot sun by the addition of wide, overhanging eaves and balconies that shade nearly all of the windows. He was equally successful with Mission Revival (Williams Residence, El Paso, 1905) and Pueblo Revival (Franciscan Hotel, Albuquerque, 1923; demolished 1972). Many of Trost's major buildings remain standing. More than twenty are concentrated in downtown El Paso, and the tallest of them dominated the skyline for nearly fifty years. Trost died in El Paso on September 19, 1933; his library was given to Rice University in 1954 and was dispersed into the Fondren Library's working collection.

Evan Haywood Antone, ed., Portals at the Pass: El Paso Area Architecture to 1930 (El Paso: El Paso Chapter, American Institute of Architects, 1984). Lloyd C. and June-Marie F. Engelbrecht, Henry C. Trost: Architect of the Southwest (El Paso Public Library Association, 1981). Lloyd C. Engelbrecht, "Henry Trost: The Prairie School in the Southwest," Prairie School Review, Fourth Quarter 1969. Groesbeeck-Trost Collection, Southwest Research Collection, El Paso Public Library. Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Ponsford-Trost Collection, El Paso Public Library. Trost and Trost, Architects (El Paso, 1907). Trost and Trost Index, Southwestern Research Collection, El Paso Public Library, El Paso.

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

Mary A. Sarber, “Trost, Henry Charles,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 23, 2019