Information about the factors that contributed to an architect’s design of a public building enriches the viewer’s appreciation of what is being communicated to the people who use the building.
The McKinley County Courthouse was dedicated in 1938 during the final years of the WPA. The leading architectural firm in the southwest at that time, Trost & Trost of El Paso, Texas, was selected to design this stately courthouse.
Henry Trost admired the work of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, prominent American architects of the early 20th century. Trost had established a reputation in the midwest before moving first to Phoenix and then to El Paso where the family firm thrived with Henry Trost as the principal designer. He developed “arid land architecture” which incorporated both style and engineering for desert climates into his public and residential architecture. Henry Trost died in 1933, leaving his brothers and nephew to continue as architects for the McKinley County Courthouse.
The McKinley County Courthouse was completed in the same year as John Gaw Meem’s signature Zimmerman Library at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The influence of John Gaw Meem’s Spanish Pueblo Revival style is evident in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Meem also designed the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, an institution with connections to many New Deal artists in New Mexico. Meem was also a member of the Advisory Committee for the Federal Art Projects during the Section Five phase in which the McKinley County Courthouse was constructed.
The McKinley County Courthouse interior core is constructed of two courses of brick that was manufactured in Gallup. This helped to maintain the local economy during the Depression.