The Lady on the Hill
Where it Began
The original El Paso High School (EPHS) started as Central High School in 1885. It was a two story building that stood on Myrtle Ave and Campbell. It had 10 rooms and an enrollment of 222 students. The high school was established on the 2nd floor with the first graduating class in 1887 consisting of two students, Kate Moore and George Prentiss Robinson.
In 1900, a new school was built at the corner or Arizona and Kansas which now serves as the University of Texas at El Paso College of Health Sciences. In 1909, Superintendent F.M. Martin requested a new building in his annual report due to overcrowding at the previous building simply known as “High School”. Mr. Martin stated, “The attention of the School Board is earnestly directed to the present need for a new high school. The present building is inadequate, and will be more and more so as time goes on.” In 1912, the Board of Trustees bought the four block site at a cost of $28,560 in the Alexander Addition subdivision where EPHS currently sits. The building, designed by Henry and Gustavus Trost, was built from 1913 to 1916 at a cost of $500,000. To replicate it today would cost over $10,000,000. El Paso High’s Greco Roman architecture was inspired by the Portico of Octavia in Rome.
El Paso High School opened the doors of the current building at 805 E. Schuster for school on September 18, 1916. The Lady on the Hill will be celebrating her 100th birthday in September 2016.
From 1920 until the late 1920’s, the buildings first three floors housed grades 1 through 12. And the top floor was a junior college for teachers. When the Federal Government decided to fund the teachers college, it was moved to UTEP (Texas Western College?) and became the College of Education.
In 1922, when the Ku Klux Klan infiltrated the city council as board members, the school’s name was changed to honor Texas heroes. EPHS became Sam Houston High School in honor of the President of the Republic of Texas and Governor of Texas. After strong community protest, the school’s name was changed back and in February of 1923 the Ku Klux Klan was defeated in local polls and their presence in El Paso soon died out.
Historical Facts & Tidbits
Thank you to Michael Montes, Class of 1997 for all of his research and desire to preserve and present the history to everyone that will listen.
Central School had the first student military corps (now known as JROTC) in the state of Texas and for that reason, our JROTC still wears the #1 on their sleeve patch. The corps was organized by Superintendent of the Schools, Calvin Esterly, a graduate of West Point.
The first yearbooks at EPHS were called “Quien Sabe”, these publications were around 1900-1912. In 1912 the name was changed to the “Tatler”, which evolved into a magazine and then the school newspaper which they still circulate today. In 1922 the yearbook name changed again for the last time to the “Spur”.
The first mention of the Tiger as the school’s mascot
“The Orange and Black” (now known as the “Alma Mater”) were dedicated to the school for the school colors which had become traditional some years earlier. The Composer was Francis Moore, who was the brother of Kate Moore who was in the first graduating class from Central School. Mr. Moore would go on to become a concert pianist, composer, and teacher.
EPHS won state basketball titles in 1922, 1926, 1941 and 1947 and made 11 appearances in the State Final Four
In the 1950’s and through the 1970’s KTSM Radio use to broadcast the Claw Game pep rally with Austin and EPHS. They would set up one announcer at EPHS and another radio announcer at Austin and each school would do a cheer and introduce the players and then the other school would do the same for a half hour. The entire city listened, even in stores.
In 1963 no Claw Game was played as that Friday would be the infamous day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Twenty years later, however, both teams would get together and play a touch football game to commemorate the lost game and the Tigers would come away victorious.
C.D. Jarvis Gymnasium was built in 1965 and completed in 1966, they said about it, “blending the spirit of the main building’s classic lines with the simplicity of the new, the gymnasium extends the campus skyline on a site facing Ange Street.”
On November 17, 1980, El Paso High officially became a historic landmark with the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
As a kick-off to the Diamond Jubilee, the Alumni Association requested to have the EPHS graduation in the R.R. Jones Stadium. To date, EPHS is the only school in EPISD that has its graduation ceremonies on their campus. Thanks to former custodian Mario Reyes and former principal, Luis Cortes, class of 1955, the ceremonies have stayed here in R.R. Jones Stadium ever since
In 1993 there were twelve design plans submitted for the renovation of R.R. Jones Stadium. That year, the stadium was renovated, the cafeteria and library were moved from the main building to the new library/cafeteria building in between the main school and C.D. Jarvis gymnasium.
In 1993 the EPISD called a meeting with the Class of 1994. The stadium renovation was set to begin and the class was given two options. The vote was unanimous; they gave up the football and soccer season in order to enjoy their graduation ceremonies on campus.
When the class of 1994 gave up the football season, every football game became an away game. The principal at El Paso High, Mr. Luis Sanchez, called the principal at Austin and suggested we have a dual homecoming. The two principals made it work and moved the game to Saturday afternoon at Austin High School.
In 2005, the new small gym was opened outside of C.D. Jarvis Gymnasium. The former small gym inside the basement level of the main building was converted into a weight room.
The Lady on the Hill celebrated its Centennial celebration with a year-long of activities including the Legacy Series, Guinness World Record attempt, the Battle of the Claw game during homecoming and over 11,000 alumni, students, friends, and family to join the grandest of all celebrations in R. R. Jones Stadium on October 7-8, 2016.