History of The Hotel Paisano


“… from the moment we took our first step into the lobby our experience was shaped by the carefully maintained interiors that preserve this great place.”

October 1929

—Groundbreaking of the Hotel Paisano a few days before the stock market crashes at the start of “the great depression”. The hotel is one of five of the Gateway hotels being developed by Charles Bassett in El Paso, designed by famed architect Henry Trost and built by the McKee Construction Company which is also constructing most of the Hilton Hotels of the era.

Download the original Trost floor plans


June 1930

— With an army of workers, the Hotel Paisano is constructed and opens eight months later comprising 35,000 sq ft in two and on half stories, 65 rooms, each with a private bath, over 12,000 sq ft of retail, restaurant and office space and will soon have a roof-top neon sign that can be seen from miles away on Hwy 90. It will be known as “the most elegant hotel between El Paso and San Antonio.”

The main customers of the Hotel Paisano during the 1930s and 1940s were area cattle ranchers who came to Marfa to buy and sell their herds, and tourists who came to West Texas for the benefits of the dry desert air. The Hotel Paisano will continue to be the social hub for the area through the 1960’s and will become known as a meeting place and oasis to travelers on the busy railroad circuit.


January 1947

—Em Mallan purchases the hotel from the Bassett family, operates it very successfully, and lives in the hotel for the next 20 years.


June 1955

—Warner Brothers comes to Marfa and makes the Hotel Paisano its headquarters for the filming of the soon to be classic movie GIANT. Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean plus 150 other cast members and crew make the Hotel Paisano their gathering place for six weeks of the summer. After the first two weeks of their visit, the three main stars move to private residences in Marfa, however, they all continue to dine at the hotel, socialize in the lobby and lounge area, and meet to watch dailies from a projector that director George Stevens sets up in the ballroom.


April 1960

—Mrs. Mallan installs a swimming pool with a diving board on the west patio of the ballroom


May 1967

—Mrs. Mallan threatens to close the hotel one week before Marfa’s U.S. National Soaring Contest if she cannot find a buyer. Local rancher, Frank Jones, purchases the hotel over morning coffee. Business continues.


October 1977

—The hotel is sold to a Houston real estate developer and over the next 10 years is partially converted into timeshare condominiums.


August 1978

—The building is placed by the U.S. Department of the Interior on the National Register of Historic Places.


March 2001

—The owners eventually abandon the business and the structure lapses into a state of major disrepair with daylight coming through ceilings and plywood covering several doors and windows. Presidio County forecloses on the property for back taxes.  The news of the pending sale is published in The Wall Street JournalThe Dallas Morning News, and other newspapers and periodicals around the country.  The building is sold at tax auction on the courthouse steps with over 800 timeshare investors forfeiting their ownership and over 200 citizens watching the most monumental sale of real estate in Presidio County history.


November 2001

—The Hotel Paisano is re-established with 17 rooms available for guests.



—The Hotel Paisano is completely renovated with 42 rooms including a number of suites as well as original historic rooms, a seasonally heated pool, 3,000 sq ft of retail and office space, a 3,000 sq ft ballroom and conference space, fitness center, GIANT memorabilia room, and a restaurant and lounge with courtyard seating. The Hotel Paisano is once again a destination in West Texas.

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