As an affluent to middle-class neighborhood, Sunset Heights enjoyed the privilege of educational options. Residents could select from public education at Vilas School, private Catholic education at Holy Family Parish school or Jesus and Mary. For older students, they could attend El Paso High School, the popular option, or attend other schools such as Colegio Palmore business school. Additionally, the revolution and political upheaval in Mexico played a role in shaping some of those institutions. This included the College of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary along with the Jesuit Order who was expelled from Mexico during the Revolution. Together, these factors were key in the development of community institutions and schools, aiding Jesuits already active in El Paso. Early in the neighborhood’s planning and expansion, the city and residents made their plans for educational institutions.
Vilas School served as the primary public elementary school for Sunset Heights children. Built in 1909 by Trost & Trost architects, the school was named after Dr. Walter N. Vilas who served as the County Physician and City Physician for several years. He also served as trustee of the public schools and in recognition, the school bears his name. Today, the school is still part of El Paso Independent School District, and is now Mesita Early Childhood Development Center.
In 1922, the 1907 Spanish Revival building at 519 Prospect was purchased in by Servando I. Esquivel as a home. Shortly after, he added a two-story dormitory and classroom building for his academy. Esquivel, a prominent Mexican educator, founded the Colegio Palmore, a business academy in Chihuahua, Mexico, circa 1890. During the Mexican Revolution, he moved the academy to El Paso. The preparatory school and business college catered to the large influx of upper- and middle-class Mexican refugees into El Paso. Esquivel, an anti-Villista, operated the school on Prospect Street until 1952 when he retired and converted the school complex into apartments. According to records, graduates from the Colegio Palmore include Ulises Irigoyen (bureaucrat and author), José and Teófilo Borunda (entrepreneurs, mayors and governors of Chihuahua), Antonio Bermúdez (Mayor, Senator and Government Minister) René Mascareñas (Mayor and philanthropist), Delia Delgadillo (first Mexican-American woman court interpreter) and Manuel Romero (founder of the Compañia Petrolera Mexicano-Americana).
Holy Family and Jesus & Mary High School
After the establishment of Holy Family Church, the parish added a school as part of the educational services provided by the diocese of El Paso. Additionally, Jesus and Mary High School also served the community. The High School formally closed in 1978 after it graduated the final senior class. Holy Family school served elementary age children for some years after but also closed its doors as neighborhood demographics changed.
Today, children who live in Sunset Heights, ages K-12, feed directly into El Paso Independent School District’s schools located outside of the neighborhood.
Neighborhoods and Shared Memories: Sunset Heights
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