The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park

El Paso, Texas | C.1930

Photo Credit: Brandon Foskett

From Mexican revolutionaries to enterprising hoteliers to Hollywood legends, the grounds of this Art Deco beauty have hosted some influential figures throughout its history. Completed in 1930, The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park as it stands today was built by the founder of Hilton Hotels, but its origins date further back…to a time before the sway of Hollywood celebrity…and when the ways of the American West were much more wild. 

In the early 1880s, El Paso emerged as a booming railroad town. Nicknamed the “Six Shooter Capital”, El Paso quickly became known for its lawlessness, but that didn’t stop New Yorkers like Dr. Lucius Sheldon from relocating to the burgeoning Texas town. Upon his arrival in 1884, Dr. Sheldon built a masonry building, and later transformed it into a hotel. His hotel quickly grew a reputation for elegance and was soon touted as one of the most luxurious in the Southwest. 

In 1910, the Mexican Revolution broke out and Dr. Sheldon soon found his hotel to be a central location within the decade-long war. Many officials used the Sheldon Hotel as their headquarters and U.S. President William Howard Taft stayed there during his meeting with Mexico’s President Porfirio Diaz. By 1920, the War was over and nine years later, the Sheldon Hotel itself would succumb to a fire.

Enter Conrad Hilton: New Mexico native and American entrepreneur with a growing hotel enterprise. Hilton began construction on a new hotel located on the Sheldon Hotel’s grounds. And despite the onset of the Great Depression that same year, Hilton completed construction on schedule, naming his new building The Hilton Hotel. Upon its completion, The Hilton was the tallest building in El Paso.

For over thirty years, the Hotel remained an El Paso destination as well as a haven for the Hilton family. Conrad, along with his mother, lived in the hotel for many years. In 1955, actress Elizabeth Taylor – then married to Conrad’s son Nicky  – called the hotel home while she filmed the movie “Giant”. Conrad eventually sold the building, where it was then renamed The Plaza. In 2020, the historic hotel was renovated and reopened as The Plaza Park Pioneer Hotel – its name a subtle nod to the early days of El Paso and the trailblazers who cultivated its history.

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