Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, Selma, AL
The Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Selma, Alabama is a three-story Renaissance Revival style building. The building is designed as a central projecting pavilion with central main entry, flanked by two slightly recessed wings, and a tar and gravel roof. The first floor is raised on a granite base and is clad through the first floor level with rusticated terra cotta. The projecting pavilion at the center of the north (main) elevation is also clad with terra cotta. The remainder of the building is buff brick with terra cotta trim. There is an unembellished terra cotta architrave below the denticulated cornice. A balustraded terra cotta parapet surmounts the building.
The north (main) elevation is more detailed than the others. The rusticated first floor level features recessed windows ornamented by terra cotta voussoirs. Granite steps with cheek walls lead to the main entry where original cast iron lamp standards rest on the cheek walls. The main entry door at the center is recessed within a stepped back, arched surround. The surround also features voussoirs and a bracketed keystone. At the second and third levels the three bay projecting pavilion is defined by two-story paneled Corinthian pilasters. Between the pilasters are three apertures, each one flanked by recessed piers supporting spring molded arches with bracketed keystones. At the center aperture (over the main entry) is a bracketed balcony with terra cotta balustrade. The brackets are feathered and connected by a foliate molding. The flanking windows
are balustraded. The frieze is embellished by guilloche molding and terminated by brackets which support a denticulated cornice. A louvered oculus, set within a surround decorated with reed and foliate banding, surmounts the cornice. The end bays are clad with buff brick at the second and third floor levels. Second and third floor windows at the end bays are set within a two-story recessed panel. The windows are set within molded terra cotta surrounds with keystones and have a small foliate cast iron grille at the base. The third floor windows are set within a squared, molded terra cotta surround with keystone. The surround sits on a projected sill accented by mutules.
The east and west elevations are divided into four bays on the original building. They are clad with rusticated terra cotta at the first floor level. First floor windows are the same as on the north elevation. Second and third floor windows are delineated by buff brick pilasters resting on terra cotta bases. The windows, set within recessed panels are the same as at the north elevation end bays. The west elevation differs only at the second bay of the first floor where the handicap access ramp has been installed and the contemporary fire stair is located within the building.
In 1928 a one-story addition was constructed at the south (rear). The addition is clad with concrete blocks, scored to resemble terra cotta. A small loading dock is located on the west side. Significant interior spaces include the courtroom with its wood wainscot and original furnishings; and the corridors. The corridors and the staircase appear to be in nearly original condition.
The Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Selma, Alabama is significant because for over eighty years it has served as a symbol of the federal presence in Selma. Located at the corner of Lauderdale and Alabama Streets, and one block off the main street, Broad, the building is in the center of the business district. It is located across the street from the Dallas County Courthouse and two blocks from the U.S. Post Office.
The building was constructed in 1909 to serve as the post office and courthouse for Selma. At the time, federal buildings were constructed under the auspices of the U.S. Treasury Department. James Knox Taylor, Supervising Architect of the Treasury, is listed as architect. A memorial arch, separate from the building, sits at the sidewalk leading to the main entry. The arch honors two Alabama Senators - John Tyler Morgan (1824-1907) and Edmund Winston Pettus (1821-1907) - who were instrumental in securing Federal appropriations for the State.
The building served as the post office for the community for over fifty years until a new post office was built two blocks away on Alabama Street. It has continued to serve as a Circuit Courthouse throughout its history. The building reflects the importance and craftsmanship accorded federal buildings of the early 20th Century. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. In a city with a significant number of historic buildings, the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse serves as a traditional symbol of the federal presence in Selma, and as a good example of Renaissance Revival architecture in the city.