U.S. Courthouse, Albuquerque, NM
The U.S. District Court, 421 Gold Avenue, is a 6-story government building with Southwestern motifs used throughout the exterior detailing. The building is 74' wide and 122' deep in a rectangular plan occupying approximately 1/4 city block. In elevation, the first 2 floors are terra cotta on a tan sandstone base with smooth/honed finish; the 3rd-6th floors are a textured brick with shades varying from buff to amberrusset. The main entry is on the South facade featuring a central 2-story arched opening with an 18" sandstone surround. Side panels inside the archway are terra cotta framed sandstone panels and a bronze store-front type entry is recessed about 2'. Decorative detailing consists of the archway, an 8" mold band of terra cotta above the base, terra cotta petroglyphs randomly placed in the terra cotta surface, textured (multi-colored) brick laid in alternating patterns of 2 header courses and 4 stretcher courses. Sixth floor windows generally are in arched pairs separated by a black marble engaged pilaster approximately the same height as the window and terminated with a terra cotta capital and base.
The building has a variegated clay tile roof with colors ranging from light red to black and an 18" deep copper sheet metal cornice and crown mold; the cornice has copper modillions between which are alternating circular and diamond reliefs also in copper, and screwed to the soffit.
The interior consists of a central, double loaded entry foyer with travertine floors and marble wainscotting. There is a central service core with two elevators and an original marble stair, surrounded by the corridors in a square "A" plan, where the service core is in the top square of the "A". Finishes in the corridors are typical throughout and consist of opposing pairs of 5"x 9" terra cotta pavers with a 8" marble border, Kasota marble wainscotting and painted plaster walls. Suspended acoustical ceilings have been dropped in all areas, but it appears that original plaster ceilings were left in place in most areas. All woodwork in public spaces is stained.
Offices are generally finished with carpet and dropped ceilings in a variety of colors and types depending on the tenant requirements. While there have been numerous changes in office configuration, a consistent pattern of keeping wood doors, trim, baseboards and picture rail is evident. There is much exposed surface wiring and conduit as a result of system changes.
The Federal Building and District Courthouse on Gold Street in Albuquerque is the only downtown structure which salutes the heritage of the Indian culture of the Southwest. It is the second Federal building to be built in Albuquerque and derives much significance from its longevity of use as a Federal Government building. James Wetmore is listed on the cornerstone as the architect, however, he was the Architect of the Treasury, and probably did not design the building since he was not a trained architect.
Adding to the historical significance of the building are two murals painted under the auspices of GSA's Art-in-Architecture program. The walls above the elevator doors on the first floor are covered by a mural, painted by Loren Mozley, depicting the Indian uprising of 1680 (also known as the Pueblo Revolt). A less imposing mural is to the right of the District Court Room entry doors on the sixth floor. It is entitled "Uphold the Right" and was painted by Emil Bistron, founder of the Taos School of Art. It depicts several positive symbolic images of teaching and building, separated from negative images of poverty and crime by various religious and legal symbols.
Of primary historical significance is the sixth floor District Court room. From the time the building was built until 1966, the sixth floor housed judicial offices, a law library and the federal court room. After 1966, this area served as Civil Service offices with the court room being used as an examination room. The ceiling was lowered and all distinctive fixtures of the court room compromised. In 1981 the District Court was restored to its original appearance and function. See zone 1C for a complete description of this area.
Presently the building houses a number of Federal agency offices in addition to the sixth floor District Court complex.