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Cherise J. Bell

GIESECKE & HARRIS. Bertram E. Giesecke and former University of Texas classmate August Watkins Harris, Sr., formed the architectural firm of Giesecke & Harris in Austin in 1921. The firm was active throughout the state of Texas and designed residential, commercial, and public buildings, especially schools—many of which were constructed with Public Works Administration funds during the Great Depression. Several of their buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and include the Bryan Municipal Building (1929, Bryan, Texas), Brenham High School (1925, Brenham, Texas), and the Kurt and Meta Schmedes House (1924, Austin, Texas). 

Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks designed by the firm include: Robert J. Kleberg Public Library (1927, Kingsville), Becker School (1936, Austin), Mathews School (1930 renovation, Austin), and Norwood Tower (1925, at one time Austin’s tallest skyscraper). Other buildings that include Texas Historical Markers are Edinburg Junior College Auditorium (1926, Edinburg), Zavala Elementary School (1936, Austin), and Raymond and Tirza Martin High School (1935, Laredo). Giesecke & Harris also designed the Santa Rita Courts (1938, Austin)—the first federal housing project in the United States funded and built under the 1937 Housing Act.

With the impending threat of American entry into World War II, the firm of Giesecke & Harris dissolved in 1941 after Harris entered the United States Army. Both men went on to establish other successful Austin firms—Giesecke formed Giesecke, Kuehne and Brooks and Harris formed a partnership with his son William. The Austin History Center has office records and dozens of drawings of the Giesecke & Harris architectural firm. The drawings include such projects as the Norwood Tower and MotorRamp Garage and the Santa Rita Courts.


Austin American-Statesman, December 7, 1950. “Designer: Giesecke & Harris,” The Living New Deal (https://livingnewdeal.org/designers/giesecke-harris/), accessed April 11, 2019. August Watkins Harris Papers, 1959, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. August Watkins Harris Records and Drawings (AR.2009.43). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas. 

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Cherise J. Bell, "GIESECKE & HARRIS," accessed July 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/cmg01.

Uploaded on April 16, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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