John Garth York

Creator York, John G., 1914-1980  
  Title: John G. York Drawings and records, South Texas and Oklahoma
  Dates: 1940-1977
  Abstract York (1914-1980) was a modernist architect who practiced in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Born in Gainesville, Ala.; graduated from the University of Texas (1940); worked with a number of architects during the next 20 years, including Olin G. Boese, G. Meredith Musick, James Roger Musick, Walter C. Bowman, and Bartlett Cocke; appointed to the faculty (1960) and became dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma; was a frequent recipient of design awards from the Texas Society of Architects; died in Norman, Okla. Includes 1,000 architectural drawings and .33 linear feet of manuscript material (1940-1977), documenting York’s work as a solo architect in Texas and his continuing career as an architect while teaching at the University of Oklahoma.
  Identification: YORK Accession number(s): 1985015
  Quantity: 1,000 drawings, .33 linear feet of archival material
  Language English.

Biographical Sketch of John Garth York

John Garth York, the foremost modernist architect to practice in the lower Rio Grande Valley, was born in Gainesville, Ala. York attended North Texas Agricultural College and the University of Texas, earning in a BS Arch degree in 1940. On graduating he worked for the Texas Parks Board and in the architectural department of the National Youth Administration. York served in the US Air Force between 1943 and 1946. He worked for Olin G. Boese in Fort Worth in 1940 and 1941, and for G. Meredith and James Roger Musick in Denver from 1946 to 1948. In 1948, York moved to Harlingen. There he was associated from 1949 to 1955 with the Harlingen architect Walter C. Bowman and the San Antonio architect Bartlett Cocke in the firm of Cocke, Bowman & York. From 1955 until 1960 he practiced under his own name in Harlingen and Corpus Christi.

York swiftly attracted national attention with the inventive modern buildings that he designed. These responded lyrically to the climatic conditions of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and zestfully displayed their light-weight construction and technologically produced building components. Cocke, Bowman & York’s most publicized buildings included a series of elementary schools in Harlingen and Brownsville, the Lon C. Hill Memorial Library in Harlingen of 1951, the Little Creek Magnolia service station in Harlingen of 1953, and Klee Square in Corpus Christi, an office and retail center dating from 1954. York laid out the Harlingen subdivision of Laurel Park along the Arroyo Colorado, where he designed a number of dramatic modern houses, among them the McKelvey (1948), Ulhorn (1949), and Thise (1950) houses, as well as a celebrated house for his own family (1954). In 1951, the Ulhorn House became the first building in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to win an AIA design award. Cocke, Bowman & York and its work were profiled in the June 1955 issue of Progressive Architecture.

After the dissolution of Cocke, Bowman & York, John York continued to design distinctive modern buildings, notably houses in the Brownsville subdivision of Rio Viejo for Antonio Cisneros and Bernard Whitman (1955), the Fairway Motor Hotel in McAllen (1957), and the Narro-Sanchez Clinic in McAllen (1958). He left Texas in 1960 upon being appointed to the faculty of the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, where he eventually became a professor of architecture and dean. York was married three times; by his second wife, Tacia Catsinas, he had three children. York joined the American Institute of Architects in 1951 and served as president of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Chapter 1953. During the 1950s his firms were frequent recipients of design awards from the Texas Society of Architects. Unfortunately, many of his Texas buildings have suffered from abusive alteration or demolition.

John G. York died in Norman, Okla., on February 7, 1980. His widow, Shirley V. York, deposited his remaining architectural drawings at the Architectural Drawings Collection of the University of Texas at Austin in 1984.

Stephen Fox

-From “Texas 50.” Texas Architect (Nov./Dec. 1989): p. 81.

hn G. york Repository