Going by the name Bizarre Bazaar on Facebook and Craigslist, Elizabeth Pille and her husband, Patrick, sell antique furniture, doors, and other treasures out of their home (and several storage units) up in Round Rock. But lately, they’ve picked up some antiques they’re not quite sure how to sell — eight square glass panels, measuring around five feet on each side, tinted an unmistakeable shade of reflective gold.
Longtime readers of this site might recognize these immensely heavy gilded sheets as the final remaining legacy of downtown Austin’s “Golden Mirror,” pieces from the former gold glass exterior of the bank headquarters at 221 West Sixth Street now known as Chase Tower. First opened in 1974 as the American Bank Plaza and later renamed for MBank and Bank One before Chase Bank finally took over, the highly reflective gilded curtain walls of the tower contained real gold, giving the building, and the surrounding streets, a sort of El Dorado glow when the sun was right.
The reasons for their removal remain a little murky — some say the mirror blinded too many folks at sunset, others say the reflected light increased the temperature of surrounding buildings and prompted lawsuits — either way, the gold panels were pried off the tower by a new owner in 1993 and replaced with the bluish shade we know today. The old panels, according to news coverage at the time, were simply tossed in the dumpster. That apparently didn’t stop at least a few people from salvaging the gold glass, and we’ve heard rumors for years that some of the panels were still floating around — but the Pilles are the first to give us a closer look.
Considering these pieces of glass are 46 years old, they’re really in remarkable condition. For privacy reasons the Pilles don’t want to disclose the identity of the Austinite who sold them the panels, but they say they might be related to someone who worked at the building back in the ’90s when the renovation took place — meaning they’ve probably been in the same garage for quite a while. The chunk I’m holding in the image above is the only significant piece that’s broken off from a main panel, and could be easily reattached if you were so inclined — you’ll find wear and tear around the edges of each pane, and they could certainly use a good windexing, but we’re really amazed to find them almost fully intact.
That brings us to the main question — Patrick and Elizabeth would really like to sell these things to someone who will appreciate their unique history. Architectural salvage is a niche region of antique sales, and I’ve personally had a hard time finding a local appraiser who can grasp why we’re so obsessed with the legacy of Austin’s Golden Mirror. If we had more square footage we’d honestly buy them ourselves.
But we know we’re not the only ones that think this stuff is incredibly cool — can you imagine how good this glass would look behind a bar, or maybe used as a coffee table? We wish Austin had some sort of architectural history museum for these sorts of treasures, but instead we’re pitching the question to you. If you’re involved with the Austin antique trade or know a local history buff with a special interest in local architectural salvage — or you just want to buy them for yourself — send an email to email@example.com and we’ll figure this out together. I mean, aren’t they just neat?