El Paso was once called Magoffinsville. Joseph Magoffin was an early resident. Around 1875 he decided to build a 6-room house. That house is now at 1120 Magoffin Avenue. Joseph and his wife Octavia moved in in 1877. Slightly less than 100 years later, El Paso was wondering how it might celebrate the national bicentennial. The still-standing Magoffin home, now close to downtown high rise buildings, was sold to the state, became a state historic site, and opened as El Paso’s only house museum. Made of adobe and grown to 19 rooms, it reflected the lives of generations of one of El Paso’s more prominent multi-cultural families.
Even in 1976, the furnishings, art, and portraits were of Magoffins and owned by them. All remained. Probably no other historic property in the Unites States knows so much about the family who lived in it. Visitors now must take a tour to see this home and hear their story. The house reflects more than 100 years of continuous use by generations of the same clan. The pictures show both sides of their front door.
Joseph, the son of the original Magoffin in the area, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. He was educated in Kentucky and Missouri before returning to Magoffinsvile to work in his father’s store. He became a civic leader and noted politician, serving as El Paso’s mayor. His interests included buying property, starting a railroad, and running streetcars. Crossing over to Juarez, Mexico, was as common as crossing a street. No passport was required. Joseph’s son Jim married the daughter of the American consul in Juarez.
The house today is worth seeing for 2 major reasons. It’s a unique blend of a Southwestern adobe homestead and the lives of an affluent family with interests in several cultures. It’s filled with original furnishings, not period re-creations. The only other attraction in El Paso that gave me a genuine glimpse into its bi-cultural past was the Chamizal National Memorial.