History of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
Travel Down the Mission Trail
Scholars' Bookshelf
Missions Bibliography
Ysleta Bibliography
Roster of El Paso Area Tribal Leaders
Native American Water Use Chronology
Tigua Military History
Early Accounts & Bibliography
Tigua Participation at Texas State Fair
Dallas Exposition  
Hueco Tanks Mountain Memorial
Texas Centennial Sponsors the Arts  
Travel Links & More
Ysleta Land Grant Chronology
Acknowledgments / Resources
Hueco Tanks Mountain Memorial

In far West Texas, the centennial spurred interest to establish county, state and federal parks at Hueco Tanks, Fort Davis, the Chisos Mountains in the Big Bend country, and the Valley of the Pyramids near Fabens.

The El Paso City Council, the county commissioners, the local centennial committee, the Women's Division of the Chamber of Commerce and the media supported the establishment of a park at Hueco Tanks, the colossal granite megaliths located 30 miles east of El Paso. The park plan was to preserve the historic site and make it accessible to the public.

In the early 1900s, many El Pasoans advocated protecting this historic site and its rock art by creating a park. In 1909, a farsighted editorial entitled "Hueco Tanks for Public Park" called for the establishment of a county park to preserve its history. Jeanie M. Frank, local historian, wrote several articles on "The Tanks" and other Texas Centennial subjects. She and other non-Indians were unaware that it was a sacred site of the Tigua Indians.

In 1934, the chamber of commerce and city leaders contacted sculptor Gutzon Borlgum to create a large-scale mountain memorial for the region to commemorate the Texas Centennial. Borglum, who at the time was blasting the presidential heads on the granite face of Mount Rushmore, traveled to El Paso on several occasions to examine the feasibility of such a project. He made a site survey of the Franklin Mountains and Hueco Tanks and explored funding potentials.

Borglum realized that the hard Hueco Tanks rock formation was far superior to the loose stone of the Franklin Mountains. He visited Hueco Tanks and developed a concept sketch for the proposed memorial. The sculptor also submitted a second centennial proposal - the placement of carved stone panels commemorating the region’s history on the International Bridge between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.

The sculptor proposed to carve a giant relief of Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions "with Indians in the background" on the rocky cliffs of Hueco Tanks. The project, known as “The Hueco Tanks mountain memorial,” was not realized because county voters on August 24, 1935, rejected a three-cent tax levy that would have supported land acquisition and development for new parks. If the county had accepted the $42,000 offer of Mrs. Pilar Escontrias, owner of the Hueco Tanks Ranch, the new park would have comprised an enormous area – the area encompassing Hueco Tanks plus four sections of land.

During the next year, Gutzon Borglum and his supporters continued without success to promote the Hueco Tanks mountain memorial. Hueco Tanks did not become a state park until 1965 when the county purchased it for $115,000, a price that was more than twice the original offer. The new park included the immediate area of "The Tanks", but not the four sections of land previously offered by owner. Borglum's Hueco Tanks memorial, if realized, would have been a national tourist attraction, but it also would have been a desecration of a sacred Native American site and a geologic wonder.