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McGarrah Jessee

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  • A large office building on downtown corner.
  • Front view of office building across street at night.
  • Statement red sculptural entrance to office buildings escalators.
  • People working in office with cubicles.
  • People working in individualized cubicles.
  • Lounge area and standing desk of an office building.
  • A concrete walkway bridge in an office building.
  • Stacked glass corner
  • People working together at office. table.

The Story of the McGarrah Jessee Building

Built-in 1953, The American National Bank was an iconic mid-century modern building in downtown Austin that had fallen into disrepair. In 2009, it was listed by Preservation Texas as one of the state’s most endangered places.

  • An old diagram drawing of an Underground parking lot.
  • Black and white photo of banks interior in the 60s

    With Florence Knoll interiors, a Seymour Fogel mural, and the first escalators in town, The American National Bank Building was an icon of mid-century modern architecture in downtown Austin.

  • A very old office space.

    After the bank failed in the 90’s, the building was purchased by the State of Texas, and it entered a dark period in its history.

  • Workers standing in a construction site.
  • A woman restoring a historic mural.
  • Six constructions workers standing pound in the office space they are renovating.

    In 2010, the building was saved from potential demolition, and restored to a condition and purpose befitting its heritage.

“The McGarrah Jesse Building, The Birth and Re-birth of an Architectural Gem”

-Video by McGarrah Jessee

The building was recognized in 2011 by AIA Austin, who awarded it a Citation of Honor.

“[The atrium] once again becomes the central heart of this building, which is the way it was conceived. Unearth that, Take the best of the building, and make it the best of the building again.”

-Anne Fougeron, FAIA

A history and tour of the McGarrah Jessee Building produced for the AIA Austin 2020 Design Excellence Conference.


Project Details

The American National Bank Building was an iconic mid-century building in downtown Austin that was vacated and in danger of being lost. Now the McGarrah Jessee Building, the exterior was renovated and McGarrah Jessee, an award-winning branding agency, was placed as the building’s primary occupant. The main goal was to capture the free-wheeling personality of the agency while respecting the original modern architecture and Knoll interiors. The design unfolds elegantly at the atrium of the piano nobile, which is rimmed with Knoll workstations and peels back to reveal a more raw space at the perimeter beyond. The interiors repurpose many items, including grates from the basement parking, plate glass, teak paneling, and marble slabs to finish off exposed columns. New openings were also punched on the western façade to provide a welcoming exterior and allow balanced interior lighting.


  • AIA Austin, Citation of Honor, 2011
  • Heritage Society of Austin, Merit Award, 2011
  • Texas Society of Architects, Design Award, Texas Society of Architects, 2012
  • Honor Award, Preservation Texas, 2012
  • Workplace Award, Architect Magazine, 2012
  • Austin Business Journal, Commercial Real Estate Awards – Office Rehab Winner, 2013


  • Texas Architect, Mid-century Update, Mar 2011
  • Apartment Therapy, Color Inspiration from Austin’s McGarrah Jessee Building, Dec 2010
  • Architect, Citation, McKinney York Architects: McGarrah Jessee Office, Dec 2013
  • Austin 360, Grand Opening Soiree for McGarrah Jessee, Dec 2010
  • Austin American-Statesman, Austin’s Starr Building to Be Reborn, Jun 2009
  • Austin American-Statesman, Vacant eyesore breathes new life as icon of mid-century Austin architecture, July 2013
  • Austin Business Journal, Grand Opening Soiree for McGarrah Jessee, Jun 2009
  • Austin Business Journal, Renovated Starr gets ad agency as Namesake Tenant, Nov 2010
  • Tribeza, Photo Essay, 2021

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