Federal Building, Cheyenne, WY

The Federal Building is located in downtown Cheyenne, near the Wyoming State Capitol. It is surrounded by federal, state, county and city buildings, as well as various commercial buildings. At the time of its construction, the Federal Building was surrounded by upper middle-class residences. Today the only remaining home in the immediate vicinity is located to the north of the site. Directly across 21st Street from the Federal Office Building was a Classical Revival style Post Office Building (c. 1898), which was demolished in 1967 for the bank building currently located on the site. The building sits on a lot approximately one city block in size that is relatively flat at the building perimeter, while sloping gently to the southwest. The site is surrounded on the east, south and west sides by concrete sidewalks, and is bordered to the north by a brick alley. An original low granite wall surrounds the south and east lawns, and was extended to the west to serve as a retaining wall for a parking expansion in the 1990s. Mature evergreen trees grow at the northeast corner of the lot, and evergreen shrubbery flanks the south entry. There are various deciduous trees at the corners of the south lawn. An aluminum flagpole and non-historic brick sign are situated at the southeast corner of the site. The south entry is marked by a granite entry stair consisting of a granite stair with two fights of steps separated by a granite landing. The upper flight is flanked by granite cheek walls. Non-historic aluminum handrails were added at an unknown time. The entry is flanked by decorative, cast-iron lamp poles atop the cheek walls. Parking lots make up the west and north ends of the site. A non-historic low, brick site wall was added on the east side of the site and a concrete ramp was added to the north elevation to provide accessibility. The buildings rectangular footprint was altered by a stair tower enclosure centered on the east elevation.

The Federal Building is a four story building with a basement. The rectangular plan measures approximately 127 wide by 50 deep. The building sits on a poured concrete foundation and has steel-reinforced concrete frame, floors and roof slabs. The building has one course of granite at grade surmounted by limestone cladding up to a limestone watertable at the sill of the first floor windows. Above this watertable the walls are brick masonry, with a buff-colored face brick. The north and south elevations are symmetrical, as are the east and west elevations. The north/south elevations are divided into nine bays by vertical metal windows with spandrel panels. The east/west elevations are divided in the same manner into three bays. Cast iron spandrel panels mark each floor level and each bay is highlighted with molded limestone sills and trim. The center bay of the south elevation has a federal eagle medallion cast into the spandrel panel above the entry. Each vertical brick section is capped by glazed terra cotta pieces with fluting and paterae details. Above the third story is a continuous carved limestone cornice and frieze with simple details, which indicates the original roof line of the building. A brick chimney rises from the northwest side of the roof, and was extended for the fourth story addition.

Most of the windows are original metal casement units set in metal frames, although some have been replaced with fixed units. Most windows are operable casements flanking a fixed center unit, except for those at the building corners, which are paired casements. Most of the windows have been sealed in place with paint and clear sealant but a few of them are still operational. The fourth floor windows are paired casements similar to those below, however some have been replaced with fixed units. Several windows along the north elevation have obscure glazing and some transoms have been altered for exhaust vents at restrooms. Many windows on the first floor have been modified to accept window air conditioning units in the lower section of the center fixed sash. Basement windows are punched openings in the foundation and have original exterior cast iron security grates. Most of these windows have been modified for exhaust vents or other equipment.

The fourth story was added in 1937 by dismantling the buildings parapet wall and elevator penthouse, constructing the new story, and reconstructing the salvaged elements. The buildings structural capacity was designed to accommodate four stories above the original three constructed, a unique forethought towards the buildings potential growth needs. This addition consists of brick masonry exterior walls with buff-colored face brick to match the original building. The fourth story has simple brick detailing including lintels, sills and trim. The window openings align with the original bays below, and have two paired casement units separated by a thin brick pilaster. The low brick parapet is capped with a simple stone coping. The elevator penthouse was reconstructed in a similar manner, centered on the north elevations flush to the exterior face of the wall. The cornice on the penthouse is simple in profile. Windows in the penthouse vary in size, have stone sills, and the units are true divided light casements. The structural system is still evident above the plane of the roofing to allow for more stories to be added in the future.

In 1974 an exterior masonry stair tower was constructed on the east elevation. The stair was designed to be compatible with the original building, essentially extruding the center portion of the elevation, and is clad with a brick veneer that closely matches the original brick and mortar in color, size and appearance. The original cast iron window bays, units and spandrel panels were relocated from the original exterior wall and installed on the new tower. Distinguishing it from the original building, the terra cotta details found below the frieze are not included in the new stair tower.

The main (south) entry fronts 21st Street and is surrounded by carved limestone trim, the most decorative element on the building. The entry surround is detailed with running egg-and-dart and foliated moulding. Limestone pilasters flank the entrance and support a limestone entablature with Classical details. The entry doors are replacement aluminum units that approximate the appearance of the original bronze doors. The original entry door frame and transom grillework are bronze.

Portions of the buildings interior retain the original finishes, although the floor plans have been modified substantially.

Many of the interior partition walls have been removed, especially on the third and fourth floors which are open floor plans. Many of the original corridor walls on the first and second floors have been removed, and in some locations new walls of modern materials and construction were built in their place. The 1999 renovation preserved much of the original corridor flooring on all the floors, giving an approximate outline of the removed corridors. The renovation salvaged and reused original paneled wood doors, frames and trim where possible. In many cases new wood doors, trim and base were fabricated to match the originals. The entry foyer provides the most intact and rich materials, including marble steps and wainscot, terrazzo flooring and plaster crown moulding.

Most of the tenant spaces have carpeting or vinyl composition tile flooring, although limited areas on the first floor have the original hardwood flooring exposed. Suspended ceilings with acoustic tiles have been installed throughout most of the building. Base trim includes wood, marble and vinyl. Wall surfaces are plaster or gypsum board over brick, clay tile or metal stud structure. Several of the restrooms remain mostly intact with hexagonal tile mosaic floors, granite wainscot, granite toilet partitions with wood doors and some original fixtures. These areas remain minimally altered and most renovation work was to update fixtures and the partitions to meet accessibility codes. In most restrooms the toilet partitions were salvaged and reconfigured to create accessible stalls. The basement and third floor restrooms were completely remodeled circa the 1950s and all historic materials were removed. The first floor entry to the original stair tower was modified in the 1990s to address security concerns on the upper floors. As part of this work, the stair was enclosed at the first floor level with a new wall construction and a security door was added. This work was also done to provide the accessible entry on the north elevation.

The Federal Building in Cheyenne was a product of the National Building Act construction program, enacted by Congress beginning in 1928, which later helped to alleviate unemployment caused by the Great Depression. The massive building program authorized the construction of federal buildings throughout the nation. The style of the Federal Building is typical of the simplified Neo-classicism utilized for many of the federal buildings constructed under this program.

The building is also significant as an intact example of work done by William Dubois, a regionally prominent architect. Educated at the Chicago School of Architecture, Dubois moved to Cheyenne in 1901 and established a successful architectural firm. Dubois blended his mastery of the Neo-classical architectural style with elements of the Beaux Arts, Romanesque Revival and Art Deco styles in his many designs. Dubois designed several buildings throughout Wyoming including: the east and west wings of the state capitol building (Cheyenne), Carnegie Library (Cheyenne), Supreme Court and State Library Building (Cheyenne), Laramie County Courthouse (Cheyenne), Landmark Apartments (Cheyenne), Plains Hotel (Cheyenne), and the Hynds Building (Cheyenne). While many of his buildings still exist, the Federal Building is significant as the only federal building designed by Dubois. It is also an excellent example of the architects later, more simplified interpretation of the Neo-classical style of architecture.

The original three-story portion of the Federal Building was constructed in 1932 to house various federal offices being relocated from state-owned buildings. Among the first tenants were the Treasury Department, Weather Bureau and Department of Agriculture. Capitalizing on an over-designed structural capacity, designed to allow for four additional stories to be constructed, a one-story addition was added in 1937. Since that time, few alterations have been made to the building exterior. The exception was the 1974 addition of a stair tower to the east end of the building, as well as an accessible ramp and enclosed vestibule on the north elevation.

Extensive alterations of the interior office spaces have altered the original plan. Spaces that remain relatively untouched from their original construction include several of the buildings restrooms and the original interior circulation stair above the basement level. The building entrance lobby has had some alterations by the removal of corridor walls, some of which were rebuilt in place using modern materials. This space retains much of the original finishes, including marble and terrazzo flooring, marble wainscot, and some plaster wall surfaces and ceiling trim. Most of the basic configuration of the first floor entrance lobby remains intact. The upper floors were completely remodeled in 1999 for continued office use by building tenants. The second floor retains the closest appearance to the original floor plan after the renovation. The third and fourth floors retain some of the historic finishes (including terrazzo and marble flooring, marble base and wood trim), however, most of the corridor and partition walls have been removed to create an open plan. The original flooring was retained to visually identify the corridor area. In addition, great lengths were taken to salvage and reuse existing doors, frames and trim where possible, and to replicate new units to match where necessary. The restrooms were also sensitively altered to meet modern accessibility codes by installing automatic door operators, reconfiguring the existing marble stalls to accommodate an accessible stall and modifying existing fixtures.

In October of 2000 the Cheyenne Federal Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Description Architect
1932 1933 Original Construction Dubois, William
1936 1937 Fourth Story addition with elevator access
1974 Addition of StairTower & Access Ramp
1999 2001 Tenant Renovations on 2nd - 4th Floors CTA Architects & Engineers
Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13