The Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, located at 316 6th Street, occupies one-half of a city block in downtown Sioux City, Iowa. The three-story building, with raised basement and fourth floor tower, is situated between Douglas Street to the east, Pearl Street to the west, and between Sixth and Seventh streets to the north and south respectively.
This building was originally built as the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office to relieve overcrowding in the old Federal Building (now the City Hall). Provisions in the Appropriation Act of July 3, 1930 authorized the acquisition of a site for a new federal building in Sioux City, amongst many other appropriations for federal buildings across the country. [This Act was based on the Public Buildings Act of 1926.] Promptly following this approval, the City of Sioux City received authorization to advertise for a new site in real estate journals.
In early June 1931, $1,025,000 was appropriated for the entire building: the site at Sixth and Douglas streets was purchased for $270,000; an additional $755,000 was appropriated for clearing the site and erecting the new building. By June 18, 1931, Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon announced the selection of Beuttler & Arnold of Sioux City for the architectural services of the new post office and federal courthouse. Proudfoot, Rawson, Souers & Thomas of Des Moines were selected as the consultant.
A product of the Depression era, the construction of the building began in July 1932 and continued throughout 1933. Dedication ceremonies were held on December 29, 1933 and the building was officially occupied on January 2, 1934. Erected for a total cost of about $900,000, the building was designed to provide accommodations for the post office and federal offices for a minimum of twenty years. The actual construction costs were $100,000 lower than the appropriated funds.
The exterior of the concrete-encased, steel frame building is clad with smooth-cut light gray limestone ashlar from Bedford, Indiana, and granite ashlar from Pine Mountain, Iowa. The building illustrates the strong rectilinear qualities associated with the Art Deco style of the 1930s, and later the Art Moderne and Modern styles of the 1940s and 1950s. Stripped-down Classical elements were employed in the design for the building as a tribute to the Beaux Arts federal buildings of the early twentieth century. The federal buildings of the this era also continue the monumental scale established by Beaux Arts classicism. The style of the building reflects a new approach in the design of federal buildings that presents the form, materials and details in a restrained, clean-lined, and modest fashion. This building embodies the public architecture promulgated by the United States government for most of the country's history, and also illustrates the effect of modernism on the established ideals of American public design.
The building was constructed under the aegis of James A. Wetmore (1863-1940). Wetmore served as the Acting Supervising Architect for the Treasury from 1915 to 1933. During his Tenure as the Supervising Architect, Wetmore was responsible for the passage of the 1926 Public Buildings Act which prompted the construction of the $300,000,000 Federal Triangle project and other important buildings in the District of Columbia. As Supervising Architect Wetmore is credited with overseeing the construction of more than 2,000 post offices and other public buildings across the country.
The Sioux City architectural firm of Beuttler and Arnold were selected to design and prepare plans for the building. Consulting architects Proudfoot, Rawson, Souers & Thomas of Des Moines were selected to provide inspection oversight, criticisms, and suggestions pertaining to the architectural drawings. Government standards were met in the planning of the details of the equipment and furniture, but the general design and the location of offices was left entirely to Beuttler and Arnold.
William Beuttler (1883-1964) was born in Hannibal, Missouri. As a young man, he was first employed by a relative (possibly his father), G. Beuttler, from 1900 to 1902. He later worked for the CB & Q Railroad as an architect in Chicago from 1906 to 1908. Beuttler studied architectural courses at Washington University in St. Louis from 1909 to 1911 and moved to Sioux City shortly after his training was complete. Beuttler met his future partner, Ralph Arnold, when they were both employed by architect W.W. Beach in Sioux City from 1911 to 1912. Ralph Arnold (1889?-1961) was born in Carbondale, Illinois and received a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of Illinois, Urbana in 1911. The firm of Beuttler and Arnold was established in 1912. Locally renown, the firm designed many civic and public buildings in Sioux City: the Masonic Temple, The Methodist Hospital in 1925, East and West Junior High Schools, Woodrow Wilson Junior High School, First Methodist Episcopal Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, First Baptist Church, Morningside Presbyterian Church, the YWCA, and several buildings at Morningside College, Sioux City. The firm of Beuttler and Arnold was in operation until 1940, when Arnold was hired by the State Board of Control in Des Moines. Beuttler practiced on his own until he established a new firm, Beuttler & Son, in 1958.
The firm of Proudfoot, et al was an established and highly respected architecture firm. Eminently qualified to assist in the design of the Sioux City Courthouse, the firm specialized in the design of public buildings such as court houses, libraries, general college buildings, office buildings and hotels, as well as the United States Post Office and Federal Building in Dubuque, Iowa. William R. Proudfoot, (1860-1927) a native Iowan, was the original founder of the firm. Proudfoot received his education in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. In 1880, Proudfoot founded the firm of Proudfoot & Bird when he was only twenty years old. Architect Harry Rawson joined the firm in 1911. Rawson is known to have been personally involved with the design of the Dubuque U.S. Post Office Building, as well as the Polk County Tuberculosis Hospital, the State National Bank, several office buildings in Des Moines, and Grinnell College. [From Withey, Henry F. and Elsie Rathburn, "Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Deceased)," (New Age Publishing Company: Los Angeles, 1956): 492 and 532]. By 1932, at the time of the construction of the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office Building in Sioux City, the name of the firm had changed to Proudfoot, Rawson, Souers and Thomas.
The general contract for the construction was awarded to Pike & Cook, a Minneapolis firm. The final bid amounted to nearly $550,800.
The process of designing the building was outlined in detail in a newspaper article about the dedication ceremonies of the building [December 24, 1933, the Sioux City Sunday Journal]. Letters were sent by the architects to various departments requesting space requirements for the new building, resulting in eleven separate departments which were incorporated into the design. Six preliminary designs were produced; one was approved by James Wetmore. The final design was then approved by each of the eleven departments. Cabinet sketches were prepared and presented to the Treasury department. Detailed working plans were developed next, as well as full-size drawings of various areas of the building. Forty- three clay models were produced to aid in the design process.
The General Services Administration acquired the building in 1984 from the U.S. Postal Service. The building presently houses several government departments and two courtrooms.