John S. And Drucie R. Chase Building

1191 Navasota Street, 78702
1968, 2022
John S. Chase (1952); Carter Design Associates (2022)
Mid-Century Modern
Historic Status:
National Register of Historic Places, Texas Historic Landmark


This single-story, asymmetrical commercial structure was designed by John S. Chase, the first Black registered architect in Texas, and built in 1952. Located in East Austin, the 1,450-square-foot building most recently housed the Division of Campus and Community Engagement (DCCE) for The University of Texas at Austin.


John Saunders Chase was born in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1925. Chase earned a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Hampton University in 1948, and later became the first African American to enroll at a major university in the South, The University of Texas at Austin (UT). In 1952, Chase became the first Black student to graduate from the UT School of Architecture.

After graduation, Chase searched for employment at various firms in Houston, but he was unable to find an architect willing to employ a Black man. However, Chase did not give up on his ambition. In 1954, he successfully petitioned the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners to allow him to sit for the registration exam. He passed the exam, opened his own practice, and became a co-founder of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA).

The perseverance of John Chase is evident in his first building. The structure exhibits unmistakable mid-century modern details like an asymmetrical flat roof, corrugated siding, entry door with three portholes, and windows that emphasize horizontality. The building was originally commissioned to serve as the headquarters for the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas (CTSAT). In 1968, the building was sold and became the House of Elegance, a beauty salon and social hub for the Black community. During its time as the House of Elegance, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2018, UT purchased the building and renamed it the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building in honor of Chase (d. 2012) and his wife Drucie (1931-2021). The university intended for the facility to take on a new life as the Center for Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE), which was revised to the Division of Campus and Community Engagement (DCCE) following passage of a state law banning diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) offices at public universities. Donna Carter, the first African American woman to become licensed in Austin, led the renovation project. In 2022, the Chase Building reopened, and in the words of LaToya Smith, Vice President for Campus and Community Engagement: “Mr. Chase believed that architecture could serve to support the democratic process, helping shape a future that would be brighter than its past, and I think he’d be pleased to know that the building he designed has another life, with education and community as its purpose.”

But in an ironic twist for a building designed by UT’s first Black architecture graduate, the DCCE was abruptly shuttered in April 2024 following a review of the university’s compliance with anti-DEI regulations. For now, the use of the building remains uncertain. – Jasmin Peisel, Assoc. AIA, NOMA

Photo Credits:

Bud Franck, AIA