Building history one mandala at a time
By Erica Martinez
UTEP’s buildings are more than bricks. They house history and the intellectual capital of the future.
“The history of the university is very much a metaphor for what needs to be done now—getting the community to take ownership of the university,” says UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “It's not just history; it's people stepping up to the plate to grow and expand the university.”
That community ownership began in 1914 when El Paso business owners and families stepped up to pledge $50,000—$1 million in today's dollars—to secure the Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy.
Since then, many more forward-thinking individuals have left behind their contributions—as well as their names and legacies—to make a significant mark on the university's history.
After a fire destroyed the school of mines in 1916, then-dean Steven Worrell chose the school's current location as its new home. Construction of the new school began in June 1917.
Worrell’s wife Kathleen suggested the school’s unusual style of architecture after recalling an article in National Geographic on Bhutan, “Castles in the Air.” The new buildings would resemble Bhutanese monasteries, or dzongs, with massive, gently sloping walls, high inset windows, projecting roof eaves and dark bands of brick with mosaic tiles in the shape of mandalas— the symbol of unity and wholeness.
By 1917, there was a cluster of castles along El Paso’s mountains, and they continue to grow today.
- Old Main (1917) housed the snack bar and a small library until 1920. It has since been designated with an official historical medallion by the Texas Historical Commission.
- Graham Hall (1917) was the first men’s dormitory and originally named Burges Hall. Later dubbed “Keno Hall,” it was renamed in 1971 for John F. Graham, a mining and metallurgy professor.
- Quinn Hall (1917) was later known as the Old Geology Building. It was renamed in 1981 to honor Howard Quinn, a geology professor.
- Vowell Hall (1920) was originally named Kelly Hall but renamed in 1986 after Jack Vowell, a football and basketball coach at the college in the early 1920s.
- Heritage House (1921) was the primary residence for Dean Worrell and his wife, as well as other deans and college presidents. In 1994, the Heritage House became the home of university memorabilia.
- Seamon Hall (1927) is named after geology and mining professor William Henry Seamon, a faculty member from 1918-1928. It is now being renovated to provide added space and galleries for the art programs.
- Holliday Hall (1933) served as a basketball gym and assembly hall for school dances. Named after Robert Holliday, an El Paso attorney and member of the UT Board of Regents, it now houses the track offices.
- Kidd Field (1933) was named after former Dean John “Cap” Kidd, who donated $800 of his own money to equip the football team and assisted with coaching.
- Worrell and Benedict halls (1937) served as men’s and women’s dormitories. Worrell Hall is named after the first dean, Steven Worrell. Benedict Hall is named after Harry Yandell Benedict, a former president of UT Austin.
- Peter and Margaret de Wetter Center (1941) is the only former sorority house (Zeta Tau Alpha) remaining on campus. In 1969, it was acquired by UTEP as the administration building annex and later named after the de Wetters, both alumni and university supporters.
- Hudspeth Hall (1947) was a dormitory named after former Texas State Sen. Claude Hudspeth, who with Texas State Rep. Richard Burges, introduced a bill to acquire the El Paso Military Institute facility for a state mining school.
- Cotton Memorial (1947) is named after Frank B. Cotton, whose estate was inherited by the university after his death.
- Bell Hall (1948) was built as a women’s dormitory and dining facility and is named after El Pasoan Elizabeth Merrill Bell.
- Magoffin Auditorium (1951) is named after former El Paso Mayor Joseph Magoffin and was extensively renovated in 1974-75.
- Miners Hall (1951) was a men’s dormitory, but now houses the Center for Learning and Professional and Continuing Education.
- Burges Hall (1963) was originally built as a dormitory in 1917 and named after former Texas State Rep. Richard Burges.
- Barry and Kelly Halls (1970) Built as dormitories, Kelly Hall is undergoing renovations to house UTEP’s new Paso del Norte Research and Business Development Complex. It was named after C.E. Kelly, a former El Paso mayor and member of the UT Board of Regents. Barry Hall is named after John Barry, the first president of the college.
- Fox Fine Arts Center (1974) was named after Josephine Clardy Fox in 1978, an art enthusiast and university supporter.
- Brumbelow Building (1959) was originally a research center for the El Paso Natural Gas Company. It was acquired by the university in 1974 and named after Mike Brumbelow, a former head football coach and athletics director.
- Don Haskins Center (1977) was originally called the Special Events Center and renamed after the legendary basketball coach in 1996.
- Ross Moore Building was named after the 1939 graduate who was associated with the university as a student, coach, teacher and trainer for 41 years. The athletics training facility was dedicated in his name in 1985.
- Larry K. Durham Sports Center (2002) The state-of-the-art athletics training facility is named after former UTEP football player and alumnus Larry Durham, who scored the first touchdown in the Sun Bowl in 1963. Durham contributed $5 million toward its construction.