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The Cortez on the Plaza: Elegance Meets Old Town El Paso, TX.


Poised in the heart of downtown El Paso, Texas lies the beautiful historic Cortez. The Cortez is filled with architectural beauty as well as two large elegant ballrooms. The ballrooms in the Cortez building are big enough to host even the largest receptions as well as glamorous enough to keep the theme of any wedding day. Both ballrooms are very different from one another and perfect for either a brighter or darker theme.


The Cortez has a long history. For more than seventy-five years it has served the city as a hotel, office building, and home to government agencies. It was originally built as a hotel on the plaza, the last of three hotels to occupy that site. In 1899, Mrs. Alzina DeGroff, a pioneer in the hotel business in El Paso, acquired the Vendome Hotel and renamed it the Hotel Orndorff after her first husband. She operated it for more than twenty-five years until 1924 when she borrowed 825,000 dollars and hired the renowned El Paso architectural firm Trost and Trost to design a new hotel. The Hotel Orndorff was demolished and a new Orndorff Hotel was constructed at the same site at a cost of more than 1.4 million dollars. Henry C. Trost, who dominated the architectural scene of the American Southwest for more than three decades, designed the building.




Mrs. DeGroff did not live to see the completion of the building and in 1927 it was sold to the Hussmann Hotel Company and became the Hotel Hussman. The company spent almost 700,000 dollars expanding the hotel. Three hundred rooms, a major convention hall, and dining facility were added. When completed, this was the largest hotel between Dallas and Los Angeles. In 1935 a contest was held to re-name the building. The winning entry suggested that it honor Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez, so the name was changed to the Hotel Cortez. The eleven-storey building has twelve bays facing Mesa and ten facing Mills. The entrance on Mesa Street has a five-storey cast relief portal and ornamented windows on the sixth and seventh levels. It is in the tradition of the Spanish Colonial Revival which was popular in the 1920s, a blending of renaissance, Moorish, and Baroque styles featuring many references to the Spanish and Spanish-American past. The interior features wrought iron, glazed tiles, and wooden beams, many with hand-painted designs. In A Castle of Old Spain on the Plaza of El Paso, a booklet celebrating the hotel that was published shortly after its renovation in 1928 it was compared to a "Spanish nobleman's mansion." The exterior of the building features portrait heads of conquistadors on the front entrance.




For the next thirty-five years the Hotel Cortez was a well-known landmark on the plaza drawing visitors and celebrities from around the world. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy stayed at the Cortez during his visit to El Paso. The Hotel Cortez finally closed its doors in February 1970 after forty-four years of operation.  Mexican businessman Jorge Murra of Torreon purchased the building and leased the space to various government agencies. In the process, he gutted much of the interior. A major fire damaged the structure further in 1972. In the early 1980s the building was sold once again and underwent major renovations. The first and tenth floor were restored to their original splendor.  The other floors were remodeled as professional offices. The El Paso Community Foundation, located on the tenth floor of the structure, has further restored the building. Today, the Cortez Building remains a splendid architectural masterpiece overlooking San Jacinto Plaza in downtown El Paso.


If you are looking for a beautiful location to host your reception with a historical touch at a great value, look into one of the two ballrooms of the Cortez. You won't be disappointed!





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El Paso Photographer | Las Cruces Photographer

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