In 1952, John Saunders Chase became the first African American to graduate with an architecture degree in Texas. When nobody would hire him, he built his own legacy anyway.
Several years before Rosa Parks made national news, and just two years before the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, John S. Chase graduated from college with a degree in architecture that came with zero guarantees.
Houston’s white architects stonewalled him from internships, but he took the licensing exam and became the first registered African-American architect in Texas. He went on to build an influential body of work—and it’s worth a much closer look.
In the upcoming book, John S. Chase—The Chase Residence, architect David Heymann and historian Stephen Fox take a magnifying glass to Chase’s trailblazing career, providing context to the history of Black architecture in the American South. They also explore how Chase impacted modernism through the design of his own family residence—a courtyard home inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe that pushed boundaries in Texas and beyond.
"The low-slung brick house that architect John Saunders Chase completed for his own family in 1959 was Houston’s first modernist house with a true interior courtyard, a form with which other progressive architects were only starting to experiment," writes Heymann. "The completed house, entirely clad in brick, was hard evidence of [Chase’s] perseverance."
Read on for a peek at the Chase Residence, and preorder a copy of the book, which is set for release this October by the University of Texas Press.