Charles A. Halleck Federal Building, Lafayette, IN
The Charles A. Halleck Federal Building is located at the southwest corner of Fourth and Ferry Streets in Lafayette, Indiana. The footprint of the S-shaped building measures 210 feet by 90 feet, and is designed in the Art Deco style. It is clad with Indiana limestone, with the exception of sections of the rear elevation which have a buff-colored brick veneer. The primary six elevations are solid and massive with flat, streamlined decoration in limestone and aluminum. The aesthetic quality borrows freely from classical prototypes without actual imitation. The wall surfaces are generally unornamented while decoration is concentrated around fenestration openings. The building's crown is a stylized adaptation of the traditional classical strata with dentil, plan frieze, and a small bracketed, projected cornice. Above the cornice is a parapet with ornate coping, the vertical projections of which are an interesting allusion to the Doric cymatium. The building is covered by flat roof surfaces, and the original flagpoles and skylights have since been removed.
The building is two stories above a full basement level, with a structural steel frame and reinforced concrete floors and roof slabs. The primary elevation of the exterior walls is clad with Indiana limestone. The exterior wall surfaces of the inset portion of the rear elevation are clad with a buff-colored brick masonry veneer. The interior walls are brick masonry.
The primary facade faces the north and consists of eleven bays flanked by projecting since-bay pavilions. The main entrance in located at the center of the facade and is approached by granite steps flanked by two cast-iron light standards. Above the main entrance is a decorative cresting as well as a fixed transom window. The doorway contains a pair of replacement aluminum-framed glass entrance doors. Five bays are located to either side of the entrance. The first and second floor window openings are coaxial and separated by cast-aluminum spandrels decorated with framed, ridged panels. Like the doors, the original window sashes have also been replaced with modern aluminum units. The existing windows are aluminum casements. The windows and intermediate spandrels are cased together with a simple stone molding. The projecting pavilions frame the north elevation; centered at the first floor of each end bay pavilion is a large limestone urn measuring three feet in diameter and six feet in height. Above the urns are multi-light, fixed glass windows set behind decorative case metal grilles. Two-story limestone pilasters frame the window openings, and the capitals of these fluted pilasters reflect the eagle motif of the main entrance.
The east elevation consists of a six-bay main body with a projecting pavilion at its north end. A recessed entrance is centered in the pavilion and the entry doorway (with replacement doors) is framed by pilasters matching those on the north facade. Above the door opening are fixed metal windows with decorative cast-metal grilles, and matching cast-iron light standards flank the entrance. The sidewalk approach has been modified to incorporate an access ramp. The design and arrangement of the remainder of the elevation matches the details of the north facade as well. The west elevation is a mirror-image of the east with the exception that the street grade is lower resulting in a substantial exterior granite stairway leading up to the pavilion entrance doorway. Basement level window openings are also fully expressed.
The south elevation consists of two four-bay limestone sections at the east and west ends flanking a fifteen-bay center section clad in buff-colored brick. The brick-clad section features a raised concrete loading dock at its first floor level. The dock platform is sheltered by a wood-framed canopy supported by steel posts. The north elevation contains the same aluminum casement windows as the rest of the building as well as a multi-light, double-hung aluminum sash units. Several window openings on the north elevation and within the recessed sections have been infilled with brick.
The interior of the building has been substantially remodeled. Although the first floor postal lobby remains, it too has been compromised by several alterations. This lobby is a long corridor covered by a plaster barrel-vaulted ceiling. The floor surfaces are terrazzo in a checkerboard pattern, and the walls feature a Verde Antique marble base, Ozark Tavernall marble wainscot, and flat plaster surfaces. The vaulted ceiling features a panel and beam design. Originally, postal service windows and brass lock boxes lined the south wall of the lobby and were set under large, wood-framed transom windows. Only remnants of these remain today as a new service window and recessed postal lock box alcove have been installed. The south wall of the lobby also features two WPA murals. The north wall of the lobby features a marble-clad entrance vestibule, decorative metal radiator grilles, and tall window openings with replacement aluminum sashes. Originally, open stairwells were situated at either end of the lobby; however, these have since been enclosed.
Double-loaded corridors, connecting to enclosed stairwells, provide circulation on the basement and second floor levels. These corridors feature terrazzo floors, plaster walls, original metal door frames with some original panel wood doors, plaster ceilings, and some original light fixtures. The tenant spaces off these corridors retain little in original elements and materials, and appear as modest office spaces with carpeting, plaster/drywall walls, and suspended acoustical tile ceilings with fluorescent light fixtures.
In 1929, realizing that the postal needs of Lafayette, Indiana had surpassed the facilities of the existing nineteenth-century, Romanesque-style post office, Congress authorized the design and construction of a new building on the same site. The legislation was passed by Congress on December 4, 1929 at the urging of Indiana Congressman Will R. Wood. President Hoover signed the measure on March 31, 1931.
The local architectural firm of Walter Scholer was selected to design the new post office building. Scholer was born in Jay County, Indiana to Swiss immigrant parents; he studied architecture at Columbia University from 1913 to 1918. Upon graduation, Scholer joined the firm of Charles W. Nichol and helped reorganize it into Nichol, Scholer and Hoffman. Subsequently, Scholer opened his own firm. During his career, Scholer assisted with many local designs, the most notable of which was the master plan for the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Indiana.
On June 30, 1931, the construction contract was awarded to the firm of Joseph A. Tintari of Chicago Heights, Illinois, for $245,760. Cornerstone laying ceremonies were held on October 28, 1931. The structural steel framework was completed by McClintoc-Marshall Construction Company of Chicago, Illinois. The marble was provided by the Carthage Marble Corporation of Carthage, Missouri; the limestone provided by Reed-Powers Cut Stone Company of Bedford, Indiana; and the metal work was completed by the J.S. Heath Company of Waukegan, Illinois. The building was placed into service on August 29, 1932, and the official building dedication ceremonies were held on October 5, 1932.
Shortly after its opening, artwork was sought to enhance the interior of the building's first floor postal lobby. A competition was announced, open to artists who were residents of, or attached to, the state of Indiana. The commission was awarded to Henrik Martin Mayer; his two murals were completed and installed on the south wall of the postal lobby in 1936.
Over the years, numerous alterations and revisions have occurred that compromised the original appearance and historic character of the building. Some examples of the changes include the replacement of the original entry doors and windows with aluminum doors and windows, the addition of an elevator, removal of several light court skylight and window openings, and the building's interior has been substantially remodeled.
The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 28, 1980, as a contributing resource to the significance of the Downtown Lafayette Historic District. In 1983, President Reagan signed a bill renaming the building after retired Congressman Charles A. Halleck. Halleck served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1935 until 1969. During his tenure, he served as the Majority Leader from 1947 to 1949 and again from 1951 to 1955, and as the Minority Leader from 1959 to 1965. The Charles A. Halleck Federal Building is significant as an excellent example of 1930s public architecture.