William B. Bryant Annex History

Annex Design

The William B. Bryant Annex to the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in Washington, DC adds 351,000 gross square feet to the eastern side of the existing, 576,500 square-foot courthouse.

The new building occupies 1.68-acre parcel bordered by 3rd Street (to the east), C Street (to the north), and Constitution Avenue (to the south) NW.

In 1997, the General Services Administration selected Michael Graves and the Smithgroup to design a 350,000 square foot annex to the historic courthouse.  The site is the parking lot located immediately to the east of the courthouse at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues.  The annex will house nine courtrooms, 19 judges’ chambers, and office space.  In addition, an atrium will connect the annex to the original courthouse.

The seven-story, 102-foot high annex houses nine courtrooms. One on the second floor is primarily used as a District courtroom and can also function as a Court of Appeals as the need arises. Four District courtrooms are located on the fourth floor, and four additional District courtrooms occupy the sixth floor. These spaces augment the 20 District courtrooms and one Appellate courtroom in the existing courthouse. Between the new courtrooms in the annex are attorney meeting rooms accessible from the public corridor to the west and secure prisoner holding cells. The annex also includes eight chambers for court of appeals judges, 11 chambers for District judges, and office space for court-related and federal functions.

The “rotunda” contains a cafeteria on the ground floor and judges’ chambers on the upper levels. A square block on the northern side of the building on C Street, NW, encloses more chambers and office space.

Site History

The E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse was built on Reservation 10, a site bounded by Constitution Avenue, 3rd Street, C Street and John Marshall Place. The building faces south across Constitution Avenue towards the National Mall, and was erected on the northwest quadrant of its site. This placement accommodated driveways along the south and west facades, and along with the subsequent plazas and landscaping, provided a buffer between colonnades of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse and the verdant Mall, onto which it opened before I.M Pei’s 1970 addition to the National Gallery of Art.

In July of 1790, Congress voted to establish a new federal city, at which time the land was ceded by the State of Maryland to the government. The land on which the courthouse would be built was labeled ‘Reservation 10.’ In the mid-1820s, the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and John Marshall Place became over the city’s earliest domestic enclaves, and Reservation 10 experienced profuse residential and commercial development through the close of the Civil War.

Despite government ownership of Reservation 10, and the presence of a city jail near D Street, upscale development occurred in the area of present-day Judiciary Square. “The land just north of Reservation 10 became a center for municipal (and later judicial) activity that spurred development in that area. George Hadfield designed his Greek Revival City Hall in this neighborhood. Built of granite, the City Hall's stylistic idiom became a de-facto paradigm for later public works, including the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse. In 1873, the federal government seized the building for use as courts, which spurred later court development here, and eventually led to the neighborhood's name, "Judiciary Square."

The southwest corner of Reservation 10 (at the intersection of John Marshall Place and B Street [now Constitution Avenue]) held the Odeon Hall, a building that served as a generic meeting and exhibition space. When the Odeon was not occupied with cultural events, it accommodated low-brow entertainment. These included all the side-show freaks of that period (the tatooed man, the woman snake charmer, the fat man and the midgets).

William B. Bryant

The Honorable William Benson Bryant (b. September 18, 1911 – d. November 13, 2005) was the first African American to serve as Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He serves as Chief Judge from March 1977 to September 1981, but continued hearing a full load of cases as a Senior Judge until his death on November 13, 2005, at the age of 94.

Judge Bryant was appointed U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia by President Lyndon B. Johnson in August 1965 after distinguishing himself in private practice and as a federal prosecutor in Washington. He was hired as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in 1951, becoming the first African America prosecutor permitted to try cases in Washington’s federal courthouse.

Judge Bryant was revered as a Washingtonian who spent his life overcoming racial odds to represent District of Columbia residents with such excellence that the legal establishment had to admit him. He was born in born in Wetumpka, Alabama, on September 18, 1911. His family moved to Washington, DC, in 1912. He attended the then-segregated District of Columbia public schools and went on to attend Howard University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1932 and continued at Howard University to receive a law degree in 1936, where he graduated first in his class.

After graduation, Judge Bryant served as chief research assistant to Dr. Ralph Bunche. Judge Bryant taught at Howard University Law School and served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was honorably discharged as a Lt. Colonel in 1947. Among his many notable cases is the landmark Mallory v. United States, where the Supreme Court ruled that a criminal suspect had a right to be brought before a judge promptly after arrest.

Last Reviewed 2016-06-30