George W. Andrews FB/ U.S. Courthouse, Opelika, AL

Opelikas George W. Andrews Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is a Neo-Classical Revival Style building located near the citys central commercial core. Completed in 1918, the building occupies the southwest corner of the intersection of South Seventh Street and Avenue A. Its faade faces north and is seven bays wide with a central five-bay pavilion. The side elevations are four bays wide. On the rear elevation, the first floor extends for one bay beyond the face of the floors above. Also on the rear elevation is a wood frame mailing platform. Green space on the site is limited to narrow strips of grass adjacent to the base of the building. Holly bushes have been planted at the base of the faade flanking the main entry stair. A paved parking area is located along the south and west sides of the building and is enclosed with an approximately 6 tall iron security fence.

The Federal Building and Courthouse is rectangular in mass and three stories tall over a full basement. A balustraded parapet wall conceals a flat/low-slope roof. The building is faced with a deep red brick veneer over a masonry and concrete slab structure. A granite water table terminates the brick faced basement level. The buildings first story has deep rustication channels set into the brick masonry which angle down at the voussoirs of the arches over the windows. This arrangement results in unique elongated voussoirs above the first floor openings. The building entrance is articulated by five deeply recessed arches. The three central arches contain wood paneled, double doors, while the outside arches contain ten-over-ten, double-hung sash windows. A wide granite stair leads to the main entry bays, over which there are metal letters mounted to the masonry that indicate the name of the building; George W. Andrews Federal Building. The four original cast iron sconces set between the entry bays were replaced with modern fixtures in the 1960s.

A terra cotta belt course separates the first and second stories on all elevations. The pavilion is articulated by massive pilasters with stone bases and capitals. Within the pavilion the second story windows have arched heads and contain ten-light French doors surmounted by four-light transoms. The French doors lead to false balconies with decorative iron rails. Within the tympanum of the arched windows are terra cotta block panels with decorative relief. The other windows on the second floor have flat heads. The third floor windows are eight-over-eight, double-hung sash with flat heads. The third floor windows match those in the outer bays of the first floor.

The east and west elevations are identical. A terra cotta cornice, with dentils and a brick frieze, is present on all elevations. Above this is a brick parapet wall with a terra cotta cap and balustraded panels over each bay. The low slope roof is set behind the parapet wall and is not visible from the street. A brick elevator penthouse and chimney extend above the roof level.

On the rear elevation, the outermost bays are identical to the corresponding bays on the faade. The first floor of the rear elevation extends out beyond the floors above and its rear wall is almost entirely fenestration. Each bay of the one-story extension contains three, 15-light windows surmounted by six-lite transoms, separated by paired pilasters. Extending from the center of the rear wall is a wood frame mailing platform. The mailing platform has a series of framed openings that contain no windows. The interior of the mailing platform is presently open to the weather.

At the second floor level of the rear elevation are tall, arched twenty-four-light, courtroom windows. The lower unit of these windows is operable while the arched upper unit is fixed. Within the projecting pavilion, the Courtroom windows are flanked by twelve-over-twenty, double-hung sash units. Above these, at the third floor level, are oculus embellished by four keystones. Above the Courtroom windows are three inset brick panels. The balustraded panels within the parapet wall are present above the three Courtroom windows.

The George W. Andrews Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Opelika was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) on November 18, 1976. The building was nominated at the state and local levels under Criterion C for Architecture as a good example of a federal government building designed by the Office of the Supervising Architect in the Neo-Classical Revival style with elements of the Italian Renaissance Revival style. The buildings period of significance is from 1900 to 1924 (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1976).

In the late 1890s classical styles began to gain favor within the Office of the Supervising Architect as the preferred motif befitting the stature and authority of federal architecture. The return to academic classicism became a popular national trend within the architectural profession following the display of the Beaux-Arts architecture during the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This change in style coincided with a declining interest in the picturesque design of the Gothic, Second Empire, and Romanesque styles, which became commonly associated with the Victorian Era and more European ideals. In contrast, the orderliness of classical architecture was viewed as modern, but also hearkened back to the countrys revolutionary past (Lee 2000:165, 191). The use of Beaux Arts, Neo-Classical, and Italian Renaissance Revival styles for public building designs became more prominent during the first decade of the twentieth century under supervising architect James Knox Taylor, who would often recycle designs of similar building types for use in different cities, making only slight modifications to account for local tastes and site requirements (Bruns 1998:80-81). Taylors successors in the Office of the Supervising Architect, Oscar Wenderoth and James A. Wetmore, would continue to employ neo-classical designs for federal construction projects through the 1920s.

In 1984, The George W. Andrews Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse was also included as a contributing property to the Railroad Avenue Historic District. The National Register Historic District was nominated at the local level under Criterion A in the areas of Commerce and Transportation and Criterion C for Architecture. The district contains 71 buildings within approximately 282 acres bounded by 7th and 10th streets, 1st Avenue, and Avenue B in Opelika.

Description Architect
1918 Original Construction Wetmore, James A., Sup. Architect
Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13