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Magoffin Home State Historic Site

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1875–1877; 1880s additions; 2010 restored, Killis Almond and Associates. 1120 Magoffin Ave.

The Octavia MacGrael and Joseph Magoffin House is a one-story adobe house (but tall, with rooms fourteen-feet high). It was built a half mile east of the Anson Mills’s plat of 1859, before scattered settlements, including Magoffinsville to the east of the house, combined to form El Paso in the 1870s. The 1886 Bird’s Eye View of El Paso shows the house set in an extensive orchard-like huerta (garden, agricultural area).

Joseph Magoffin’s father, James Wiley Magoffin, was a Kentuckian engaged in the Mexico trade and was recruited by the U.S. government to help negotiate the surrender of Santa Fe to the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War. The Rio Grande flood of 1868 destroyed Magoffin’s adobe house. His son, Joseph, built this house after regaining title in 1873 to the Magoffinsville rancho, which James had forfeited because of his Confederate affiliation during the Civil War.

Joseph built the first three-room section of the adobe house in 1875 with cottonwood vigas, reed latillas, and small-scaled windows and doors; it is now the southern (rear) wing of the house. The main portion of the house, a larger wing parallel to and some thirty feet to the north of the original section, was constructed about 1877. Also constructed of thick adobe blocks, but with ceiling beams of dimensioned lumber and simple but impressively proportioned, pedimented windows and doors in the New Mexico Territorial style, it is about four times larger than the first phase and considerably grander in scale. The striking pattern of lines inscribed in the white plaster overcoat of the house’s front to give the impression of coursed masonry dates from the 1870s.

A second addition, consisting of a transverse wing of bedrooms that forms the base of the house’s present-day U-shape on the east, was built in the 1880s. Joseph was a banker and civic leader and served four terms as mayor of El Paso. After his death his descendants occupied the house until 1986. After the City and State purchased the property in 1976, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operated it as a state historical site; it was transferred to the Texas Historical Commission in 2007. The house was restored in 2012, and a Queen Anne cottage across the street (1117 Magoffin) was rehabilitated in 2014 as the visitors’ center.

The Magoffin House architecturally represents the cultural fusion that the Anglo-Mexican Magoffin family embodied. It is a traditional Mexican adobe house that incorporates an Anglo-American central passage and interior fireplaces (not common in Mexican houses), as well as late-nineteenth-century wood cabinetwork inside and decorative trim outside. The huerta of the Magoffin homestead, to the east, west, and south of the house, was redeveloped by the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso as a senior retirement community, Sun Plaza, with a nine-story T-plan slab and Eichler Home-like low-pitched front-gabled casitas (1966, Nesmith-Lane and Associates; 1221 E. San Antonio).

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


What's Nearby


Gerald Moorhead et al., "Magoffin Home State Historic Site", [El Paso, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: East, North Central, Panhandle and South Plains, and West, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019, 486-486.

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