Jack Brooks Federal Building, U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, Beaumont, TX
The Jack Brooks Federal Building in Beaumont, Texas is a three story limestone Neoclassical structure resting on a sandstone base. The main elevation faces east. It is a neoclassical interpretation of a temple facade consisting of a slightly recessed central columnade of ten columns and two projecting pavilions, (one at either end) with recessed entry porticos. At each entry bay is a modillioned denticulated cornice supported by two in-antis Corinthian columns. The frieze is enriched by carved stone swags featuring a laurel wreath and star motif. The fluted columns are ornamented at the base by a leaf and dart motif and by a Federal shield at the center of each capital. The main entry doors are centered between the columns in the recessed porticos. The original doors were fixed glass with an ornamented cast aluminum grille but have been replaced with glass and aluminum double doors with a cast aluminum neoclassical surround featuring a fluted pilaster motif. A decorative cast aluminum grille transom panel rests on the surround. The doorway is framed by a limestone surround featuring carved rosettes; a deticulated cornice supports an elaborately carved pediment with an American eagle at the crest. Directly above the doors is an eight over eight steel window with a decorative grille over the lower eight panes, set within a decorative aluminum surround. Enriching the aluminum spandrel panel is a relief of the Great Seal of the U.S. The third floor of each end pavilion features three windows set within plain limestone trim. The center window is eight over eight and is flanked by two four over four windows. Carved limestone medallions are above the windows; the center medallion features the scales of justice and the flanking medallions feature sheathed reeds. A limestone cornice with anthemion cresting surmounts each projecting bay. The first and second stories of the central pavilion are divided into twelve bays by ten in- antis fluted Corinthian columns. Each bay on the first floor has one twelve over twelve steel window with aluminum surround below an aluminum relief of the Great Seal of the U.S. Twelve eight over eight aluminum surrounded windows are symmetrically placed on the second and third floor levels. A limestone entablature, supported by the Corinthian columns, separates the second and third stories. It features carved limestone ornamentation at the north and south ends. The ornamentation consists of swags highlighted by a federal star motif and, at the extreme corner of the projecting bays, a carved longhorn steer head. There is a copper cornice on the roof line of the center pavilion above a simple limestone entablature. At the base where the main facade meets the red stand stone base is a course of carved leaf and dart motif. This is the same motif as at the base of the columns and it runs along the perimeter of the 1933 building. The north and south elevations of the original exterior are mirror images. The 1964 addition us juxtaposed at the west end of the north and south elevations therefore the easternmost two-thirds of each elevation remain from the original building. Bays at the northwest and southwest entry doors are identical to the main entry doors except that the carved pediment atop the limestone surround features a longhorn steer head at the apex. There is an eight over eight steel window about the entry which is identical in trim to the windows at the main entry doors, The remaining five bays of the north and south elevations are within a recessed portico formed by four in-antis fluted Corinthian columns. First floor bays have twelve over twelve steel windows with aluminum surrounds below a cast aluminum panel featuring the Great Seal of the U.S. Eight over eight aluminum surrounded windows are symmetrically placed on the second and third floors. A limestone entablature supported by the columns separates the second and third floor levels. It features a denticulated cornice and limestone relief carvings at the northwest and southwest corners. Carved swags accent the entry bay at the entablature and the carved longhorn steer head motif completes the ornamentation at the extreme northwest and southwest. A limestone entablature featuring, at intervals, a carved flour-de-lis motif supports an elaborately ornamented cast aluminum cornice. The cornice features floral motifs highlighted by projecting anthemions. At the base of the facade is a carved leaf and dart band running the length of the original north and south elevations. The original sloping roof consists of re-toned Ludowici clay tiles; the flat roof is composition. The 1964 addition is compatible with the original building, though simpler in detailing. The window configurations are the same. The west (rear) elevation dates entirely front 1964 and later. At the north and south ends of the west elevation, the building is clad with limestone and has four bays of windows on the first and second floor levels. The center block of the west elevation is clad with buff-colored brick. The marquee remains, but the former loading dock has been enclosed and is used for office space. The light court is formed by the position of the main courtroom in the original plan and where the 1964 addition joins the original building to the west. The walls are clad with buff-colored brick laid in American common bond. Windows have limestone surrounds and sills. Significant interior spaces which remain intact are the postal lobby and main second floor courtroom and court lobby. The postal lobby retains its marble wainscot, terrazzo floors, ornate plaster panel ceiling, and ornamental postal tables. The courtroom retains its walnut paneled walls, cork floor, and marble trim. The court lobby retains its full-height marble walls, terrazzo floors, and decorative court entry doors.
The Jack Brooks Federal Building in Beaumont, Texas is significant because of its monumental example of the Neoclassical style of architecture in Beaumont; it is representative of the Federal building projects of the 1930s; and it has been the major symbol of the Federal presence in Beaumont for more than 60 years.
The original building was completed in 1933 at a cost of $463,000. The Neoclassical style was prevalent in many civic and government buildings of the period. Architects were Fred C. Stone and F.W. and D.E. Steinman of Beaumont. The firm still operates with Douglass E. Steinman, Jr. as the principal architect. H.M. Sanford of Houston was Consulting Engineer. The passage of the Public Buildings Act in 1926 precipitated a period of building construction that was unprecedented in the United States. Due to the large percentage pf failure of the nation's architectural firms, the design of the buildings by local firms was encouraged in the 1930s. Thus, a local firm was commissioned for the design of the Federal Building in Beaumont. Originally conceived as the main post office and courthouse for the area, the building currently serves the same function though the post office presence has been greatly reduced.
Beaumont was originally settled in the early 1830s but it wasn't until oil was discovered in 1925 and adduced financial security for the area. This precipitated the building of a large number of civic and government buildings that continue to dominate the architectural character of the city.
The Federal Building has served the community for thirty years when it was determined that additional space was needed for Federal functions. A 76,500 square food addition was built in 1964 on the west elevation of the building at the cost of $1,830,000. George Ingram was the general contractor. Extensive remodeling was done to the postal sales and work area at the time. Representative Jack Brooks, for whom the building was named in 1978, introduced Senator Ralph Yarbrough as featured speaker for the dedication ceremonies.
The Jack Brooks Federal Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 as a contributing building to the Beaumont Commercial District. It continues to serve the community of Beaumont as a post office, Federal office building, and with increasing prominence as a Federal Courthouse. Therefore, the building remains, after more than sixty years, the predominant symbol of the Federal presence in Beaumont, Texas.