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Historic Building in El Paso Gets a Fresh New Look: O.T. Bassett Tower Facade Lighting

The CodeLumen team, the lighting division of Creates Group, has worked on this project for the last year, and we are happy to be a part of something bigger and to touch history. We want to share the story of the journey, historical facts, some of the project’s challenges, and how we overcame them using new technologies to change the look of El Paso’s historical landmark.

One of the oldest photos of O. T. Bassett Tower in El Paso, Texas. Circa 1930’s Source: The Portal of Texas History
One of the oldest photos of O. T. Bassett Tower in El Paso, Texas. Circa 1930’s Source: The Portal of Texas History

The main goal of the project was to illuminate the facade of The Bassett Building, which is located in downtown El Paso, Texas, and was recently transformed into a modern art deco Aloft Hotel and commercial spaces. The main challenge of this project was highlighting the historic architectural details of the building without compromising the aesthetic and historical aspects. How did we design and engineer sustainable lighting solutions to illuminate the exterior facade of the building? Hold on, let’s first dive into the history of this place.

The O.T. Bassett Tower was built by Charles N. Bassett in 1930 as a memorial to his father, Oscar T. Bassett, who was a pioneer El Pasoan and one of the founders of El Paso’s first bank, the State National Bank of El Paso. Henry C. Trost was the chief designer and architect of the building. El Paso Times acknowledged him in 1933: “He was the one who let himself be known by his works, rather than his words, one who made a valid and lasting contribution to the development of this great region. His was a life of purpose and achievement, and he leaves the Southwest richer for his having lived and worked in it.”

Henry Trost designed the building and decorated it with many nice details, including decorative terracotta elements and faces at the main entrance. Supposedly, one of the faces in the middle of the facade—a man with a heavy mustache—is Henry Trost himself; another suggestion is that it might be Oscar T. Bassett. Either way, to add such an element was a typical gesture of Trost’s sense of humor.

For the last ten to fifteen years, El Paso has invested in renovating the downtown area, making it more attractive for the citizens and aggressively vitalizing the central part of the city. When it comes to renovating historic buildings, a specific set of rules must be followed, and no significant changes to the state of construction can be made. To complete this project, we had to get our plans approved by the Texas State Historic Landmark Commission and El Paso’s local Landmark Commission—this stage alone took us months.