By the early 1900s, many well-heeled El Pasoans had settled in Sunset Heights. Many of those residents were business and political leaders involved with city growth and planning strategies. Several factors played in to building El Paso: Politics and impending revolution on the other side of the Rio Grande, the expanded railroad and continued westward expansion, and mounting instability in Europe.
These events linked directly to migration either from families moving from other parts of the United States, or from other countries. European migrants came from Germany, Prussia, and other central countries. There was also a growing number of people coming from Middle-Eastern countries such as Lebanon and Syria. A steady stream of Mexican families joined relatives on the northern side of the river and Chinese migrants, previously deported or persecuted during Chinese Exclusion after 1882, continued to cross for work through a series of clandestine tunnels leading to an exit at the Sunset Heights boarding residence known as Turtle House.
Neighborhood leaders and residents were connected in one or more aspects to these events: mostly through commerce and diplomacy. City Attorney Richard F. Burges, built his home but a short walk to town and played a prominent part in the development of El Paso and the Southwest. As city attorney from 1905 to 1907 he led the fight against organized gambling and wrote the city charter that was still in effect at the time of his death. Like Mr. Burges, Major W.J. Fewel contributed to shaping city infrastructure. In addition to financing the first paved street, he was instrumental in setting up the gas company for the region. He was also a city council member in1905-07.
Women also contributed to the success of city building and the growth of the neighborhood. Olga Kohlberg, wife of Ernst Kohlberg, helped establish the first free public kindergarten in Texas and supported the first public library, becoming president of its board in 1903. She served twice as president of the El Paso Women's Club, established in 1898, and was an honorary board member for the rest of her life. She also guided the restoration of the three parks of the city. The Kohlberg family was also active in the Jewish community, supporting the Mount Sinai Jewish congregation in 1898, and the building of the first Temple Mount Sinai in 1903.
In addition to the more prominent community leaders and neighborhood residents, many Sunset Heights families actively contributed to the growth of city and the neighborhood’s legacy on a daily basis. These names also have a place within the historical record, recovered for posterity. Today, Sunset Heights is comprised of a wide-ranging group of residents: students, professionals, working-class and upper-middle class.
Neighborhoods and Shared Memories: Sunset Heights
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