The Sidney L. Christie Federal Building is located at the southwest corner of Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue in downtown Huntington, West Virginia. The north and east elevations front Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street, respectively, with the other elevations facing alleyways. Originally designed in the Second Renaissance Revival style by the firm of Parker & Thomas, the elevations rely on the unity of their parts, symmetry, rhythm, and ornamental features to define the architectural style.
Though a restrained example of the style, features that define this building as an example of the Second Renaissance Revival style include its rectangular form and massing, use of stone rustication at the first floor and for quoins, arched windows at the first floor, heavy cornice and belt courses, and the presence of balustrades. These features and the proportional systems used are derived from Italian architectural masterpieces such as the Medici Palace in Florence.
The designers of the two additions chose to continue the original style and replicated the ornamental features along the facade to keep the building visually consistent. As such, the divisions between the original building and the additions are not apparent from the exterior. However, these have been marked on the 2015 Zoning Plans included with this report, for reference. In general, the exterior remains largely as built and significant alterations, such as the replacement of the windows, have been undertaken carefully in order to minimize their visual impact.
The original design by Parker & Thomas reflected not only the prevailing aesthetic ideas of the period but also the influence of functional planning. The first floor, which was originally devoted entirely to post office matters, is distinguished from the rest of the building by the rusticated base, and the relatively uniform window and wall treatment across the facade relates to the long public lobby behind. The upper two floors, occupied by the federal court and related functions, are horizontally unified. The three monumental windows at the second and third floors of the central pavilion signify the location of the original two-story courtroom while the single windows of the side bays open onto supporting single-story office space.
The building is three stories (56 feet) in height, and measures 255 feet on each of the north and south sides and 94 feet on each of the east and west sides. The building comprises three construction periods: the original structure built in 1905-1910; a three-story, 94-foot addition to the west side built in 1917-1919; and a final three-story, 100-foot addition to the west side in 1935-1937. The 1905-10 building has a rectangular footprint on the first and basement floors, changing to a U-shape on the upper two stories. The later additions enclosed the U-shape end to create a completely rectangular footprint with three internal light courts at the upper two levels. The additions were executed using the same materials and scale as the original building. The building's flat roof is not visible from the street.
The steel-frame and masonry building is clad with Bedford Indiana limestone with a grey granite water table. All of the elevations, including most elevations of the east and center light courts, are similarly composed and detailed in the Second Renaissance Revival style, featuring symmetrical bays and a formal composition of parts organized into three horizontal divisions: a base of rusticated ashlar granite, a two-story body or central section of ashlar masonry (rusticated at the east elevation and ashlar at the others) embellished with classical pilasters on the facade, and a parapet punctuated with regular sections of urn-shaped balusters. The more elaborately treated pavilions, set at corners and at regular points along the north elevation, serve as compositional accents.
The projecting entrance pavilion on Ninth Street marks the original entrance to the building. The east and north elevations are articulated as the most prominent, and the east end of the south elevation and the east and center light courts generally follow the same styling. The west end of the south elevation, the south end of the west elevation, and the west light court are articulated as less prominent facades and so follow the same compositional order as the more prominent elevations but buff brick is substituted for stone as the primary facade material and ornamental elements such as belt courses and parapets are simplified.
The windows typically are recessed and arranged in vertical groups of two or three. The existing windows are aluminum replacements mimicking the rail and muntin profiles (though somewhat thicker) and patterns of the wood windows that were originally in the openings. The first floor windows have eight-over-eight lights, surrounded by radiating keystones of rusticated limestone. The second and third floor windows in the central section have stone heads and are set back from the rusticated limestone by a flat limestone surround. The second story window heads are broken by projecting limestone keystones; third story windows have unadorned heads. Basement windows are found below grade in window wells. The existing exterior doors are aluminum assemblies installed in 2008 to meet blast-proofing requirements. The entries at the north elevation have metal and wood canopies above, which are tied back to the building with turnbuckles.
The interior retains a large amount of historic fabric throughout. The most ornate space is the lobby at the northeast corner of the first floor, which is the original 1905-10 building lobby incorporating adaptations and expansion during the first addition in 1919. This lobby has a terrazzo floor with maroon marble border and pink and maroon marble cross-banding. The walls are plaster divided into bays by pink marble pilasters crowned by marble pilaster caps. A pink marble wainscot lines the east and north walls. The ceiling echoes the established bays with plaster coffering. Bronze mailboxes line the inner walls and an iron lattice above originally provided light to the post office work room beyond, but is now covered from behind by gypsum board. Lighting is by multi-globe pendant fixtures which are replicas of the original fixtures that were located in this space. The center lobby adjacent and the northwest lobby date to 1937 and have terrazzo floors with marble borders. The walls are plaster or gypsum board with marble baseboards. The ceiling of only the center lobby has a bas-relief band at its perimeter. Lighting is by ceiling-mounted fixtures that are replicas of those that were in these spaces historically. Stairs with ornamental iron railings and pink marble treads and risers are located in both the northeast and northwest lobbies.
Corridors at the first floor are non-historic but have synthetic tile flooring imitating the historic terrazzo elsewhere throughout the building and their walls feature marble baseboards. Offices throughout the remainder of the first floor are non-historic and typically feature carpet and gypsum board walls and ceilings. Profiled wood trim installed in the 1980s but matching the original at the second and third floors is used for many corridor door surrounds and for trim elements in the first floor courtroom.
The second and third floors have received relatively few changes since they were originally constructed. The corridors have terrazzo floors with marble borders, marble baseboards, plaster walls with wood chair rails in some areas, and gypsum board ceilings. Light fixtures are compatible though non-historic c. 2010 replacements. Offices typically have carpet with the original wood floors below exposed in some areas, profiled wood baseboards, plaster walls with wood chair rails in some areas, and non-historic acoustic tile ceilings with integral fluorescent lighting. Corridor doors and doors between offices are paneled oak with brass hardware and profiled trim. At the corridor side, the casings have eared heads, whereas at the office side, they have squared tops (there are occasional exceptions to this rule.) Casings have marble base blocks at the corridors and wood within offices.
The second floor courtroom is a double-height space that dates to 1937. Many elements including the marble baseboards, wood paneling, and one of the entry doors were salvaged and relocated from the original 1907 courtroom, which was converted into office space. The floor is carpeted over the original cork tile. Plaster pilasters extend from the top of the paneled wood wainscot to the underside of a dentillated plaster cornice. Lighting is by compatible though non-historic 2008 pendant fixtures.
The basement is generally utilitarian with concrete floors in many areas and some vinyl tile and carpet, gypsum board or exposed brick walls, and the exposed concrete structure above. Doors are a combination of older wood and metal and recent hollow metal. Exposed piping and conduit is visible in many spaces. Lighting is by fluorescent pendant fixtures or ceiling-mounted LED fixtures, typically.