Camino Real El Paso
History of the Camino Real Hotel
(Formerly the El Paso del Norte Hotel)
The hotel’s builder, Zach T. White, was drawn to El Paso by its magical name “Pass of the North.” After witnessing the 1892 burning of the Grand Central Hotel, which stood on the site of the present day Mills Building, White dreamed of building an elegant, classic hotel that would be the center of social life and a gathering place for tourists. He hired the local architectural firm of Trost and Trost and together they studied the structures in San Francisco which withstood the Great Earthquake of 1906. They designed a brick, steel, and terra cotta building, with interior walls made of gypsum from nearby White Sands National Monument, that was not only structurally sound but also was fireproof.
The hotel was built at a cost of $1.5 million. White referred to it as his “dream hotel.” The Hotel Paso del Norte, so named by White, opened Thanksgiving Day 1912 with a lavish ball. It was hailed as the “Showplace of the West.”
The interior of the historic hotel was the most elegant area. No detail was spared in its construction. Cherrystone, golden scagliola, and black serpentine marble installed by Italian artisans graced the lobby, mezzanine, and dining rooms. Twelve gold-leaf cages with live parakeets adorned the pillars in the main dining area. A Tiffany glass dome crowned the lobby. All wood-work was solid mahogany.
The hotel supported its own bakery, ice factory, butcher shop, laundry, and a bar “stocked with every liquor you’ve ever heard of," said Mrs. Paul Harvey, daughter of Zach T. White.
The roof top ballroom and patio were the scene of many dinner dances and Sunday tea dances. It was also a favored place to gather and watch the progress of the Mexican Revolution and Pancho Villa across the Rio Grande River.
The historic inn in Texas remained in the White family until 1970, when TGK Investment Co. Ltd. bought the hotel from Mary and Katherine White, the daughters of Zach T. White. The new owners said they would refurbish and modernize the hotel, but every effort would be made to preserve the Western atmosphere.
Over the years, the hotel has undergone several remodeling. The last major construction on the hotel was in 1986 when the 17-story tower was added.
Points of Interest
- The Dome – From Tiffany’s in New York, this beautiful Tiffany glass dome originally adorned the lobby of the Paso del Norte Hotel. It is made up of 17 pieces and is suspended by wires due to the tremendous weight which would otherwise collapse it from the center.
- Stained Glass Windows – The windows you see on the south wall of the Dome Bar and Dome Restaurant are original to the hotel.
- Dome Restaurant – This room was originally called “The Depot” or “main dining room.” It has always been a meeting area for socializing, business, and special events such as weddings and anniversaries.
- Dome Restaurant Chandeliers – These chandeliers are replicas of the original candle chandeliers that were in this room. In the past, these beautiful chandeliers were lowered in the evening, all the candles lit, and then they were raised to provide light for the room.
- Original Front Desk – Along the north side of the Dome Bar was the original front desk area. Everything beyond the pillars was added during the 1986 renovation.
- Uptown’s Coffee House – This room was the original hotel coffee shop.