The F. Richardson Preyer Federal Building and Courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina is significant as a since representation of the Art Deco style; as a structure built as a direct result of the Public Building Act of 1926; and as a symbol of the Federal presence in Greensboro.
Stimulated by the Paris Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs et Industrielles Moderne of 1925, the Art Deco (sometimes referred to as Modernistic) style of design was widely used in commercial and Federal Buildings of the 1930's. The Art Deco style is a combination of classical and futuristic elements. Characteristics of this style are an emphasis on verticality, use of recesses and set-backs, vertical bays of windows, use of aluminum (or white metal) ornamentation, chevron bands, geometric and plant motifs, and flat relief.
The passage of the Public Buildings Act of 1926 precipitated a period of building construction that was unprecedented in the United States. The Public Building Act specified that the office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury would be responsible for the design and construction of Federal Buildings. Due to the failure of many of the nation's architectural firms in the Depression, the design of public buildings by independent firms was encouraged by the mid-1930's. The Preyer Building was designed by the Washington architectural firm of Murphy and Olmstead with James A. Wetmore, Acting Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, as Supervising Architect. The George H. Rommel Construction Company of Louisville, Kentucky, acted as General Contractor.
The Greensboro building was built as a Post Office, Courthouse and Federal Building. The people of Greensboro had anxiously awaited construction of a new, badly needed facility. Construction was begun in December of 1931, and when the building was dedicated on July 6, 1933, more than 5000 people attended the dedication ceremony. After the postal service moved out completely in the late 1980's, the entire first floor work space was converted to courts and related offices. At the present time the building serves primarily as a Courthouse for the Middle District of North Carolina. The site of the building has some significance. Prior to the construction of the Federal Building, the Sloan House, a house built of timbers of the original Guilford County Courthouse stood on the site for 100 years. It was said that the armies of General Green and Lord Cornwallis fought around this house during the Revolutionary War. Later the house was reported to be home of Greenboro's first mayor. The site is at the edge of the downtown commercial are and directly across the street from the Guilford County Government complex. The building continues to serve as an active, visible symbol of the Federal Presence in Greensboro.