El Pasoans work with trust to save ASARCO building, artifacts

By Genevieve Curtis | KFOX14

EL PASO, Texas —

The ASARCO smokestacks are gone, but there are some ASARCO buildings still standing.

Now some El Pasoans are working with ASARCO trustee Roberto Puga to preserve the buildings and turn them into a memorial or museum.

“We want to tell the story of the many different people that had many different positive influences because of ASARCO. People became doctors, engineers, people became politicians,” said Bernie Sargent, chairman of El Paso County Historical Commission.

Even though the stacks couldn’t stay the commission is hoping they can salvage pieces of the past and keep them for the future.

“We have a lot of artifacts that Roberto has given us. So we’ve accumulated those artifacts and we would like to build on that and have a small museum about refining and smelting in West Texas,” said Sargent.

Some of the artifacts include pieces of the chimney, old equipment, control panels and the first computer used on site.

Sargent said the goal is to preserve the headquarters building which was originally built in the late 1800s out of thick adobe before being melded together with another building. If they can keep the headquarters building, they can house everything there.

“Now we are working with Roberto about the possibility moving that building closer to the base of the chimneys and build a memorial where the chimneys stood and so people can learn about the history of ASARCO,” said Sargent.

Puga is working with the commission on the preservation.

“We’ve promised not to take that building down, leave it up and work with them to try to preserve it,” Puga said by phone on Monday.

Sargent said they would have liked to save the powerhouse built in the early 1900s. However, it’s in such poor shape it is beyond the point of salvaging. Puga said estimates to fix up the powerhouse were around $3 million.

Sargent said they are looking at raising $1 million in private funds to save the headquarters building.

“We would like very much to say, ‘We did this for the community,'” said Sargent.

The Historical Commission has until the fall to present Puga with a plan and Puga has pledged to house all of the equipment for a year, until the commission can find a permanent home for everything.

The trust is not obligated to contribute anything financially to the memorial or museum.

Sargent said they are still coming up with different plans to fund the project, which could include donations or through the sale of souvenirs.

Source: http://www.kfoxtv.com/news/news/local/el-pasoans-work-trust-save-asarco-building-artifac/nXTH7/