U.S. Forest Service Building, Ogden, UT

Building History

In 1908, the U.S. Forest Service selected the city of Ogden as the location for its district headquarters. Ogden was chosen over Salt Lake City because it had more favorable railroad rates, more local amenities, and a stronger business community. Design and construction work on the headquarters building did not begin until the 1930s. The building, located on the southeast corner of the inter-section of Twenty-fifth Street and Adams Avenue, was one of the first in the nation to be funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA was the largest agency of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal program, which was designed to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression.

Federal officials awarded the design contract to the local architectural firm of Hodgson & McClenahan. Working under the supervision of federal construction engineer Clement J. Gerber and Acting Supervising Architect of the Treasury James A. Wetmore, Leslie Hodgson developed design concept sketches and partner Myrl McClenahan produced working drawings. Both men were noted for their perfectionism and concern with detail. The resulting building is an innovative example of the Art Deco style of architecture, which Hodgson & McClenahan popularized in Ogden. In late 1932, Murch Brothers Construction Company of St. Louis, Missouri, received the contract to construct the building and on-site work began in January 1933.

The building quickly became a local landmark, due in large part to its remarkable appearance in a largely residential area. In addition to its architectural merit, the building helped to establish Ogden as an important center of federal activity. Since its construction, only minimal alterations have been made to the building, resulting in a very high level of architectural integrity. Original storage areas were renovated into offices between 1939 and 1940, and roofing was replaced and skylights removed in 1963.

The U.S. Forest Service Building was first listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as part of the Ogden Art Deco Buildings Thematic Resources Nomination, which recognizes the town's significant Art Deco architecture. In 2006, the building was individually listed in the National Register. The U.S. Forest Service continues to utilize the building to house its Ogden Ranger District, Office of General Counsel, and Intermountain Research Station staff.

Architecture

The U.S. Forest Service Building is a skillfully executed example of the Art Deco style of architecture, which features a Modern appeal, vertical emphasis, and stylized ornamentation. Distinctive stepped, linear forms and silhouettes recur in components of the building, as do Art-Deco motifs such as chevrons, sunbursts, and zigzags. The four-story building is clad in brick that is darker tan in color at the base and gradually transitions to lighter tones of beige at the upper stories. In order to achieve the desired color gradation, the architects employed eight shades of brick and were actively involved in the placement of the masonry. The mortar and terra-cotta detailing match the brickwork and enhance the progressive shading.

The building has a rectangular footprint at the basement and first story levels. The second through fourth stories are constructed within a U-shaped light court to allow natural illumination of the interior. The reinforced-concrete frame structure is enclosed in a brick and terra-cotta curtain wall and rests on a grey granite foundation comprised of blocks from the Raymond Granite quarry in California. A terra-cotta water table with a matching gray glaze tops the foundation. The first and second stories are visually separated by a terra-cotta stringcourse with geometric and floral patterns.

The symmetrical facade, which faces Twenty-fifth Street, has slightly recessed bays at either end. The facade is dominated by regularly spaced windows with aluminum mullions. Tall brick pilasters emphasize the building's verticality. The window openings are topped by terra-cotta spandrels with sharply molded projecting vertical apexes. The spandrels also feature zigzag motifs and stylized foliated decorations. The flat roof contains a centrally placed three-story penthouse tower with a glass-topped greenhouse used for agency studies and experiments. The penthouse is executed with the linear stepped pattern and features terra-cotta trim with chevrons. A tall brick chimney, which displays the same skillful color gradation, is located at the southeast corner of the building.

Access to the interior is gained through the main central entrance, which contains a recessed doorway articulated by a wide, incised surround. Above the doorway, a panel identifying the building as a U.S. Forest Service facility is flanked by two carved, stylized eagles. The service's insignia, which includes a tree superimposed on a shield, is located on each side of the panel. Two Art Deco street lamps with a stepped pattern flank the entrance and feature sunburst and chevron ornamentation. The main entry doors are glass with etched nickel-bronze frames and handles with a stepped, rectilinear arrangement.

The interior spaces are richly ornamented, a typical feature of the Art Deco style. The vestibule and main lobby are identically detailed. Utah Golden Travise marble covers the walls and Verde Antique marble forms the baseboard. The walls are topped with an elaborate cast-plaster crown molding that is an Art-Deco interpretation of the traditional egg-and-dart motif. A metallic silver glaze covers the molding. The cornices replicate the stepped pattern found throughout the building. Centrally placed silver foil appliqués adorn the ceilings. The central staircase, which is accessed from the lobby through an arched opening with stepped, rectilinear forms, is clad in the same marble found in the lobby and has wood handrails with octagonal cross sections. Similar arched openings lead from the lobby to the east and west corridors. The walls of the corridors retain the original wood wainscot cap with the ubiquitous stepped profile. While sections of flooring have been replaced or covered, select areas retain original rubber tiles that were laid in a tri-color diamond pattern.

Significant Events

1908 U.S. Forest Service establishes regional headquarters in Ogden

1932 Ogden architectural firm Hodgson & McClenahan designs building

1933-1934 Building constructed

1983 Building listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Ogden Art Deco Buildings Thematic Resources Nomination

2006 Building individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Building Facts

Location: 507 Twenty-fifth Street

Architects: Hodgson & McClenahan

Construction Dates: 1933-1934

Architectural Style: Art Deco

Landmark Status: Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Primary Materials: Buff-colored Brick; Terra Cotta

Prominent Features: Striking, Stepped Art-Deco Profile; Stylized Art-Deco Motifs

U.S. Forest Service Building, Ogden, UT

The Forest Service Building occupies the southeast corner of the intersection of 25th Street and Adams Avenue. The building is set back from the corner with a lawn that sits a few feet above the sidewalk, requiring concrete retaining walls on the north, west and south sides. Several large trees survive on the site, and low growing shrubbery is planted along the foundation of the building. A concrete driveway extends from 25th Street to the rear of the building along the east side. A small parking area is located at the end of the drive, atop the roof deck of the basement Boiler Room. A driveway from Adams Avenue runs along the south side of the building, where the sloping site allows access to the basement level. This area is used for deliveries, tenant parking and is the location of handicap parking and the accessible building entrance.

The structure is basically square in plan at the basement and first floor levels, and U-shaped from the second through the fourth floors. A three story penthouse tower with a steel and glass greenhouse on the third floor is located on the north side of the roof. The facades are symmetrical with the ends recessed slightly. The front facade faces north, toward 25th Street, with a series of granite steps leading to the main entrance which is centered and slightly indented on the façade. The foundation is faced with light-colored granite, and capped with a matching terra cotta water course. The primary walls are composed of brick that gradually changes color from light-brown at the base to tan at the top of the building. Each elevation is composed of regularly spaced vertical bays consisting of alternating rows of windows and decorative terra cotta spandrel panels. Terra cotta spandrel panels on the first through fourth floors have sharply modeled geometrical designs emphasizing vertical and diagonal movement. Spandrels above the fourth floor have combined geometrical and floral motifs, also emphasizing vertical and diagonal movement. The terra cotta panels and the mortar change color to match the brick shading. The windows are single glazed and painted; those on the first floor are wood double-hung, while those above are three-section steel casement/hopper. A light court, formed by the U-shaped plan, orients to the south; terra cotta spandrels are replaced here with a brick interpretation, but otherwise the masonry design is identical to adjacent elevations. The light court roof is flat and originally had skylights, but these have been covered over. The main roof is flat, with a surrounding brick and terra cotta parapet.

A consistent sense of the Art Deco Style is experienced all through the building, including motifs such as chevrons, circles, and zigzags with strong vertical accents. Of particular note is a distinctive stepped, linear pattern that reoccurs in many of the building's elements. Terra cotta spandrels and decorative trim begin this theme on the exterior, followed by an etched diamond design on the entry doors. The theme is repeated throughout the interior in floor patterns, door hardware, wood moldings and ceiling cornices.

The main entry doors are metal and glass with etched nickel-bronze pulls in a stepped, rectangular arrangement and the interior vestibule doors are the same but are wood. The vestibule and main lobby have the same finishes. The walls are veneered in floor-to-ceiling brown colored Utah Golden Travise marble, with a dark green Verde Antique marble base. The ceiling is cast plaster with an Art Deco interpretation of the egg and dart design at the room edges and a series of “steps” up to the ceiling surface which has a silver foil appliqué. A central stair runs from this lobby down to the basement and up to the fifth floor penthouse. From the basement to the second floor lobby the stair has Golden Travise marble wainscot with a Verde Antique base and Golden Travise cap that continue up the balustrade. The stair treads are green and black marbled rubber, with metal nosings. At the intermediate landings the rubber is laid in a three color diamond pattern. Original acorn light fixtures remain at the landings. The east and west stairs have the same marbled rubber treads and landings.

The original men’s and women’s restrooms remain on the first through fourth floors. These restrooms have the original white hexagonal floor tiles with a square tile border in a zigzag pattern. The original pink Tennessee marble wainscot with a matching marble cap and marble partitions with the original wood doors and chrome hardware are still intact. Many of the original fixtures and accessories remain.

Offices are located on both sides of the corridors, on the first through fourth floors, as wells as the south end of the second through fourth floors. Some of the corridors have the new flooring that replicates the original yellow and black floor tiles in a checker board pattern with a black border. The majority of the original plaster partitions in the offices remain. Most offices have the original wood wall base with the building’s signature stepped profile. The original wood flooring is concealed by carpet tiles. A number of original internal windows remain, along with original doors and door frames. Many offices have the original sinks still in place. The walls and ceilings are plaster on lath and in the conference rooms at the building corners there is a stepped moulding on the ceiling.

U.S. Forest Service Building, Ogden, UT

The U.S. Forest Service established the District 4 regional headquarters in Ogden in 1908. At that time Ogden was the second largest city in Utah (Salt Lake City was the first) and an important railroad center. Ogden was chosen over Salt Lake City because it had more favorable railroad rates, available facilities and a more aggressive business community. The U.S. Forest Service was originally housed at 203 24th Street in Ogden. In the early 1930s Congress appropriated $250,000,000 for Works Progress Administration (WPA) construction projects, one of which was a U.S. Forest Service Building in Ogden, Utah.

The Forest Service Building was originally built to provide offices for the U. S. Forest Service Intermountain Region, the Experimental Station, and the Supply Depot. The Ogden architectural firm of Hodgson and McClenahan undertook the design work in 1932. Leslie S. Hodgson, considered the most important architect of the Ogden-Weber County area from the late nineteenth to the mid twentieth century, provided the design concept sketches and Myrl A. McClenahan produced the working drawings. On December 20, 1932, a contract for $229,000 was awarded to Murch Brothers Construction Company of St. Louis and construction began in January of 1933. Local labor was used when available and lumber, brick, and cement was supplied by local businesses. The granite was imported from the Raymond Granite Quarries of California.

The Forest Service Building is an excellent example of the Art Deco style, which makes use of decorative surfaces that include stepped silhouettes and geometric detailing. The exterior façade walls are brick and terra cotta that fade from brown at the base to light tan at the cornice and the architects personally selected every brick on the building to achieve this ombre shading. This building is one of three distinctive Art Deco buildings in Utah, all of which are included in a National Register Thematic Nomination "Ogden Art Deco Buildings." An historical marker placed by the State of Utah, and located in the main lobby, acknowledges this significance.

The building consists of a basement, four floors and a three story tower. The first floor of the tower is the penthouse, the second is a mechanical room and the third was an experimental hothouse. The basement was originally used as a space for automobiles and other heavy equipment. The first floor housed storerooms, offices for central purchasing, the maintenance agent, auditor, fiscal agent and operations department. The second floor consisted of the library, assembly rooms, public waiting rooms and the offices of the regional forester, law, grazing, public relations and land management division. The third and fourth floors were occupied by the government engineer and intermountain forest and range experimental station. The building has continued to house Forest Service operations to this date. Other federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the USDA Office of General Counsel, now share occupancy of the structure.

The Forest Service Building is representative of an important stage in national history; it was one of the first buildings in the nation to be funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a project sponsored by the government to stimulate the nation's economy during the Great Depression. Locally, the building is significant in Ogden's development as a federal government colony. The U.S. Forest Service was the first federal agency to locate in a city where the federal government is currently the largest employer.

The Forest Service Building contrasts strongly with its residential context, and has consequently served as a local landmark for many decades. The building has experienced few alterations, has been well maintained, and maintains a high degree of architectural integrity.

Year
Start
Year
End
Description Architect
1933 1934 Original Construction Hodgson & McClenahan
1934 Wrought Iron Fence at South Wall Treasury Dept., Public Works Branch
1939 1940 Renovation of Storage Areas into Offices G.L. Nichols, U.S. Forest Service
1956 Alterations & Partition Changes
1959 New Lighting & Electrical System
1963 Replace Roofing, Remove Skylights
1964 Fire Door Enclosure of Stairways
1969 Remove Flagpole from Greenhouse
1977 Replace North and West Retaining Walls
1980 HC Restrooms Installed on Flrs 1-4, West Entrance, Replace Fire Doors Case, Lowe, & Hart, Inc.
1982 Replace Heating System
1988 Mechanical Alterations Edward & Daniels & Associates
1991 Elevator Replacement Silver, Naylor & Associates
1994 Electrical System Upgrade