Sidney O. Smith Jr. Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, Gainesville, GA
The Federal Building and Courthouse in Gainesville, Georgia is a white marble structure which originally consisted of a Post Office building constructed in 1910 facing Washington Street. The 1936 addition facing Spring Street repeats the Classical Revival style of the earlier building with different detailing and is also clad in white marble. The 1910 post office building consists of five bays on the north elevation. The three central bays are part of a slightly projecting pavilion. An arched entryway is in the center flanked by massive arched windows. Paired Ionic pilasters divide the arched openings and an unembellished frieze supports a denticulated cornice. The east and west facades of the 1910 building are similar to the end bays of the north facade. The pitched copper roof with eight eye windows was installed in the mid-1980's and is a replacement for the original clay tile roof. The cast iron door surround, featuring fluted Doric columns supporting an ornamented frieze and denticulated pediment, is a distinctive feature of the facade. In 1936 when the courthouse portion of the building was constructed, a "bridge" at the first floor level connected the two buildings. At the east facade the bridge is clad with marble and sits on a granite base. The west facade of the "bridge" is the buff brick loading dock. The 1936 courthouse addition carries through the Classical Revival style though it is expressed through different detailing. Due to a grade level change the ground floor at the south elevation is above grade and is expressed completely in white marble. At the center of the south elevation, rising two and one-half stories in height, is a monumental entryway. The recessed entry features a panelled arch supported by pairs of fluted engaged pilasters at each side. The original ornamental cast iron surround remains. Within the arch is a gilded eagle. Two ornamental terra cotta string courses adorn the building - one above the ground floor level and one above the second floor level. Fluted engaged Doric pilasters support an ornamental frieze below the denticulated cornice. In the addition the ground through second floor windows are wood. Third floor and mezzanine windows are steel casement and are expressed in bays divided by the engaged pilasters. Black spandrel panels with gilt borders appear below the mezzanine windows. Significant interior spaces include the 1936 courtroom, court lobby and south entry lobby. The courtroom features wood wainscot and carved door surrounds. The court lobby has terrazzo floors and marble door surrounds. A 1937 painting depicting a Civil War scene hangs on the south wall of the lobby between the double entry doors of the court. The south entry lobby of the ground floor level features terra cotta tile floors and wainscot embellished by pressed decorative tiles. The panelled ceiling features stencilled beams.
The Federal Building and Courthouse in Gainesville, Georgia is
significant because it is architecturally distinctive as one of the
town's oldest Classical Revival buildings; and it remains a symbol of the Federal presence
The white marble Federal Building was constructed in the Classical
Revival style. Written reports from Allan C. Burdick, Construction
Supervisor, to James Knox Taylor indicate that the building was
constructed between 1909 and 1910. The reports express Mr.
Burdick's frustration with some of the workmen (specifically
carpenters). Later reports show that interior work was ongoing by
spring of 1910 and that the building was occupied later that year.
The Federal Building and Courthouse was one of the few structures
neither destroyed nor heavily damaged by a tornado which nearly
destroyed all of downtown Gainesville on April 6, 1936. As a result of the new construction in the downtown area, the Federal Building has the distinction of being one of the town's oldest buildings.
The Gainesville Post Office was established in 1823 and was housed
in various buildings until 1910. In that year a new white marble
post office facility was completed in the Classical Revival style.
During 1934 and 1935, the post office moved to a store building
while the new Federal Building and Courthouse was under
construction. The newer building represents an addition to the
original building and repeats the Classical Revival style. The
completed Federal Building was occupied in 1936 by the U.S. Postal
Service and the Courts. The Post Office relocated in 1967 and the
building retained the Federal Courts and related offices.
Throughout its history the Federal Building and Courthouse has
served as a symbol of the Federal presence in Gainesville, Georgia.