Federal Building, Sacramento, CA

The Federal Building is a five-story building, including a full-height basement, located on I Street between 8th and 9th Streets. The building is 145 feet wide by 267 feet long, rectangular in form to the second floor, and E-shaped above that level. The middle leg of the "E" is shorter than the east and west wings, which were extended northward to the alley in 1938. The building rises 78 feet to a hipped clay tile roof.

The building combines elements of the Beaux Arts tradition with those of the Mediterranean Revival style. The simple massing and surface treatment of the building is offset by the richness of ornament and pattern exhibited in the metal grilles and the cast terra cotta surface ornament at doorways, friezes, cornices, keystones and grilles. The base of the building to the first floor is clad in a smooth ashlar granite. The upper floors of the three principal facades are deeply rusticated at the first floor, with shallow rustication above. The surface material of the three principal facades is granitex, an architectural terra cotta with a granite-like finish. The north or rear elevation along the alley is surfaced with a gray colored brick which matches the color of the granitex material. The distinguishing feature of the primary elevation along I Street is a recessed bay punctuated by a series of fourteen three-story fluted doric columns.

The building is organized around an internal corridor running east-west along the southern portion of the building and extending into the three legs of the "E" at the upper levels. Tenant spaces are grouped around the corridors and receive light from perimeter windows. The main corridor at the ground level, by contrast, receives no natural light. This spectacular public space features a coffered ceiling, finely detailed marble, patterned terrazzo floors and an ornamental metal and glass bay system. Main entrances to this space are located at the east and west ends of the south elevation. Stairs and elevators are also located at the far ends of the main east-west corridors.

The Federal Building is an important local representative of the Beaux Arts style and a major work of a regionally prominent architect, Starks & Flanders. Built between 1932 and 1933 as the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse Building, it is an important civic landmark representative of the city of Sacramento's newly realized position of economic and political significance in northern California.

First settled by John Sutter in 1839, Sacramento experienced several periods of major growth beginning with the Gold Rush in 1848. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the development of enormous agricultural opportunity, the establishment of a major railroad network, and State Capitol designation ensured Sacramento's future growth and expansion. With its growth came the erection of a number of important public and commercial buildings during the first two decades of the twentieth century. These prominent architectural works were carefully designed to serve their basic functions as well as to visually enhance the city and generate pride in its increasing sophistication and urbanization. The onset of the 1920s brought with it the City Beautiful movement, which soon began to exert its influence on Sacramento's architectural and urban environment.

In 1933 the new U.S. Post Office and Courthouse Building was inserted into the city's urban center, replacing the 1894 Post Office a few blocks away. The new building was the 11th location for postal service in the history of the city. Its capacity and efficiency made it the mail handling center of the region, while its housing of numerous federal agencies and activities made it the major focus of most federal functions in this part of the state.

Description Architect
1932 1933 Original Construction Starks & Flanders
1938 Extension of East and West Wings at Upper Floors Starks and Flanders
1962 Fourth Floor Alterations
1969 FIrst Floor Alterations Carter and Hart
1982 Third Floor Alterations
1992 (Ongoing) Seismic Stabilization & Systems Upgrade Vitiello + Associates
Last Reviewed: 2021-09-16