Exterior:  William Augustus Bootle Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, Macon, GA

Building History

In 1896, the rapidly growing city of Macon, Georgia, needed a larger post office and courthouse. After much debate, officials decided to construct a new building rather than expand an existing federal courthouse. However, Judge Emory Speer refused to vacate that building, insisting that only an addition was necessary and major construction would disrupt the court. Speer resisted for years, but the original building was finally demolished in 1906.

James Knox Taylor, Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, designed the new building in the Beaux Arts Classicism style, which he believed conveyed the dignity of the Federal government. By September 1908, the building was completed. The post office occupied the first floor, and courtrooms and judges' chambers were on the second floor.

The building was renamed the William Augustus Bootle Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in 1998 to honor one of Georgia's most important judges who presided there. President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Judge Bootle to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia in 1954. Judge Bootle was responsible for several landmark civil rights rulings in the state. In 1961, he ordered the University of Georgia to admit two African-American students, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter, who were denied admission because of race. The case, Holmes v. Danner, had a major impact on integrating higher education in Georgia. Judge Bootle issued his ruling on Friday, January 6, 1961, and called for immediate action. Holmes and Hunter registered the following Monday and attended classes two days later. A related ruling by Judge Bootle denied Governor Ernest Vandiver the ability to refuse state funding to the university if it was integrated. Judge Bootle also ordered the desegregation of the Macon bus system in 1962 and Bibb County public schools in 1970. After a distinguished career, Judge Bootle passed away in early 2005.

The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and is within the boundaries of the National Register of Historic Places Macon Historic District, which was listed in 1974.

Architecture

The William Augustus Bootle Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse displays many characteristics of the Beaux Arts Classicism style of architecture. Architect James Knox Taylor was responsible for the construction of many classically inspired buildings during his Federal career. Taylor believed that classical architecture espoused the symbolic value of Federal buildings as lasting monuments to the ideals of democracy. The building contains many character-defining features such as the central pavilion with a pediment (triangular gable), monumental paired columns, balustrades, and decorative swags and garlands. The rusticated first story features deep horizontal grooves between the marble blocks.

The facade is clad in white marble on the front and side elevations, but cream-colored glazed brick is on the rear portion. The building sits on a raised granite base. Above the rusticated first floor, the marble is laid without recessed joints, resulting in a smooth finish. A dentil course of small blocks extends across the facade and is another classical feature.

Fenestration includes rectangular windows topped with marble pediments and arched windows with prominent keystones. Three large windows on the second story are each topped with fanlights. Plaques with swag designs are located above the keystones.

The original portion of the William Augustus Bootle Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse had a U-shaped plan with an open light court that provided illumination to interior spaces. In 1917, a wing was added to the rear of the building. The addition respected the original design and used similar materials, but was less ornamental than the original facade. In 1934, a second addition was completed, providing another courtroom and more office space. Both were constructed under the auspices of the Supervising Architect's office.

The lobby is divided into two areas: a postal lobby in the original portion of the building and a public lobby that is part of the 1934 addition. In the postal lobby, verde (green) marble pilasters (attached columns) with scrolled Ionic capitals decorate the walls. The floors are terrazzo with brass dividers and verde marble borders. The same marble is used for the wainscot. Heavily veined white marble veneer covers the upper portions of the walls. The ornate ceiling is executed in plaster and features beams that divide the ceiling into distinct panels. Each panel is outlined with a dentil course and egg-and-dart decorative molding. A decorative band called a guilloche with floral patterns also defines each panel. The centers each have a plaster medallion outlined with an acanthus leaf design. Cylindrical brass light fixtures descend from the centers of the panels. Original octagonal postal tables that sit upon verde marble bases remain in the lobby. Decorative finishes and details in the public lobby are similar to those in the postal lobby and provide continuity to the interior. However, ceiling panels in the public lobby are less ornate.

The main staircase ascends from the first floor. Its newel posts and baluster are cast iron with a wood railing, and treads are white marble. Elevators have been replaced, but the exterior finishes are original and include doors with brass panels and verde marble surrounds.

The second floor contains the ceremonial courtroom. Oak wainscot covers the walls and an ornamental cornice encompasses the top of the room. Original furnishings in the room include the judge's bench, witness box, clerk's desk, court rail and benches, and jury box. Original lighting fixtures illuminate the powder-blue and white vaulted ceiling.

Significant Events

1906: Old building demolished after lengthy delay

1908: New building completed

1917: First addition completed

1934: Second addition completed

1961–1970: Landmark civil rights rulings by Judge Bootle

1972: Building listed in the National Register of Historic Places

1974: Macon Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places

1998: Building renamed to honor Judge William Augustus Bootle

Building Facts

Location: 475 Mulberry Street

Architect: James Knox Taylor

Construction Dates: 1905–1908

Historic Status: Listed in the National Register of Historic Places; Located within the boundaries of the National Register of Historic Places Macon Historic District

Architectural Style: Beaux Arts Classicism

Primary Material: White Marble

Prominent Features: Central Pavilion with Pediment First-floor Lobbies; Second-Floor Courtroom

The William Augustus Bootle Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is a four-story Greek Revival building located on Mulberry Street in the Downtown Historic District. The building is clad with white marble on the south (main), east and west elevations and with cream-colored glazed brick on the north elevation. The building sits on a raised granite base. At the first floor level the marble is rusticated and above the first floor level it is laid in smooth blocks. The south elevation features a raised temple front extending 110' across the building. The classical prostyle tetrastyle temple front consists of four double Ionic columns supporting a pediment with plain entablature with dentil molding and a richly ornamented tympanum. The marble cornice which features dentil bed molding, extends around the south, east and west elevations and to the returns at the east and west ends of the north elevation. Also extending around the roof perimeter is a balustraded parapet. A distinctive feature of the south elevation is the series of three massive courtroom windows at the second floor level. These windows are nine over nine wood double hung windows with six-light side lights and nine-light fan lights, located in the three bays on the temple front. A corbelled marble surround with a keystone frames each window and above each one is a plaque with an ornate swag design. The main entry to the building is on the south elevation at the center. The wood framed arched entry still retains the three-light transom but the original doors have been replaced by double, bronze anodized aluminum doors. The windows on the first floor level are 1/1 double hung wood windows with two-light sidelights and three light arched transoms. A marble spandrel panel accents the windows at this level. At the second floor level, the windows are 2/2 with a two-light transom. The third floor windows are 2/2. All the windows are original, double-hung wood windows. First floor windows are recessed slightly in voissoirs with crossettes. This is a Renaissance detail. The second floor window openings have alternating pedimented and segmented arch hoods on the building and all pedimented arches on the 1934 addition. The third floor windows are simply enframed with a slightly projected marble surround. The west elevation continues the detailing of the front corners. There is an entry door in the center of the original (1905) west elevation. Here, also, the original door was replaced by an anodized aluminum one. There is a small bracketed, balustraded balcony above the doorway. Another entry door has been cut into the northwest corner. A window opening was enlarged to provide for the door opening. The east elevation mirrors the west except for the doorway; however, a U.S. Postal Service mailing platform was added to this elevation at the junction of the 1905 building and the addition at the east.

The north elevation rises from a raised granite base and is finished in cream-colored glazed brick except for the east and west ends. The classical detailing and marble of the primary elevations are returned around the east and west ends of the north elevation to soften the transition. The brick is ornamented by a simple marble belt course at the cornice and above the third floor windows. The windows are the same as at the other elevations; all are double hung with the first floor windows having transoms. All the windows have marble sills. The enclosed light court at the center of the building was created when the 1934 addition was built. The south, east and west walls of the light court are marble clad as are the south, east and west elevations of the building. The north wall of the light court is clad with cream-colored glazed brick.

The lobby area of the William Augustus Bootle Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is spatially and visually divided into a postal lobby and a public access lobby. The lobby is L-shaped with the bottom of the "L" running east to west at the south side of the building; this is the original postal lobby. The top part of the "L" runs north to south at the west side of the building and incorporates the transition between the original (1905) building and the 1934 addition. The postal lobby is divided into five bays by verde marble engaged pilasters of the Ionic order. The floors of the lobby are terrazzo with brass divider strips and verde marble borders. The verde marble is also used as a two foot high paneled wainscot throughout the lobby. Heavily veined white marble veneer covers the walls between the wainscot and the cornice. There are two bays flanking the main entry which is in the center of the elevation. Original octagonal postal tables sit within the bays on verde marble pedestals. Original oak bulletin boards with pedimented tops adorn the marble walls at intervals. The postal lobby is spanned by parallel plaster beams which divide the ceiling into decorative panels. Each panel is outlined with dentil molding capped by egg and dart molding. The center of each panel features a plaster medallion outlined with an acanthus leaf motif circle, or torus. The panels are outlined with an ornamental plaster band featuring a series of guilloches with a single flower in each circle. The center of the ceiling panel serves as a plate for suspended brass cylindrical light fixtures. The west corridor of the lobby extends south to north from the postal area to the general access public lobby. The finishes, except for the simple panel ceiling are the same as in the south corridor, the original 1905 postal lobby. The main staircase is at the center of the west corridor. It consists of a steel staircase with marble treads and a cast iron baluster with wood rail cap. The elevators are on the east wall of the public lobby. Though the elevators themselves have been replaced, the exterior finishes are original to the 1934 addition. The first floor lobby elevator doors are eight panel brass with verde marble surrounds.

The second floor ceremonial courtroom opens off the corridor at the front wing of the building. The courtroom was an integral feature of the 1905 building and still serves as a focal point of court activity. Above the three foot oak paneled wainscot, the mustard color plaster walls are ornamented with ivory plaster panels of varying sizes at intervals. These corbelled rectangular panels culminate in a simple disk at each corner. Double plaster mutules ornament the wall over the larger plaster panels at each wall (two on either side). The ornamental plaster cornice band extends around the perimeter of the room at the base of the arched ceiling. The classical cornice has dentil molding at the corona, a plain frieze, and an architrave ornamented by beaded molding. The ceiling of the courtroom is a distinctive feature. The arched white painted plaster ceiling has a flat center panel. The ceiling arches are accented by elaborate acanthus molding edged with bead and reel molding. The acanthus torus molding also forms a perimeter band at the flat plaster field in the center of the ceiling. There is also an elaborate plaster cornice consisting of egg and dart molding over a series of glyphs at the flat center panel. Original furnishings in the courtroom include the judge's bench, witness box, clerk's desk, court rail and benches, and the jury box. The original ceiling fixtures are decorative, molded plaster urns which up-light the ceiling. One especially distinctive feature of the courtroom is the pair of lamps at either side of the judge's bench. These fixtures are opaque glass globes on cast bronze pedestals. Though the lamps may have been converted to electrical power, the original gas jet controls are still in place, or the fixtures may have originally been combination gas/electric.

The corridor configuration has had only minor changes; many of the original finishes remain. Typical finishes are terrazzo floors with white, heavily-veined marble borders and verde marble base; vinyl wall covering; and wood chair rail on the walls. The original ceilings are obscured by dropped acoustical ceilings with flush fluorescents, except in the south corridor of the 2nd and 3rd floors.

Tenants occupying space in the William Augustus Bootle Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse include the U.S. Postal Service, the Federal Courts and related offices, the U.S. Marshal's Service and the Probation Offices. Tenant space is provided on the first through fourth floors. Dating from the 1934 addition, the typical finish for office spaces was wood plank flooring, wood base and trim (chair rail and picture rail), and plaster walls and ceiling. Over the years the tenant space has been altered many times to suit the needs of the various tenants. Currently, the typical finishes include carpet, wood base and chair rail (in some spaces), vinyl wall covering, and dropped acoustical ceilings.

The basement was intended to serve as storage and service/mechanical space; and it still largely fulfills that purpose. A few offices (notably GSA at the northwest) have been finished out in the basement. The 1934 loading dock as been closed-in and houses a break room for building employees. Service and mechanical areas are located in the northeast corner of the original (1905) building. The remainder of the basement serves as storage for various tenants.

By 1896, is was determined that Macon, Georgia, needed a new post office and courthouse. It was decided to add to the small building already on the site. Construction began in the spring of 1905 but proceedings were suspended in the summer of that year due to questions over whether to expand the existing building and whether to honor the contract with the general contractors, the Mankin Construction Company of Richmond, Virginia. By October the problems had been resolved and construction was continued. The decision was to demolish the existing building and build a new one. In late February of 1906, the old building was "taken down"; materials in the old building became the property of the contractor and were sold. Construction was completed and the new Federal Building was occupied by September of 1908.

The original building was a U-shape plan with a basement; the first floor covered the entire footprint of 18,000 square feet, second and third floor wings extended around the U with an open light court between; and a fourth floor which had a few offices but served primarily as attic space. In 1934 an addition was built giving the building an additional courtroom as well as more office space. The rectilinear extension was built to the north (rear) of the building. It enclosed the light court and extended beyond the original wall planes at the east and west. Effort was made, successfully, to match the finishes of the original building.

Both the 1905 building and the 1934 addition were built under the auspices of the office of the Supervising Architect for the Treasury Department (then empowered with Federal building activity). James Knox Taylor was the Supervising Architect in the early 1900s and thus is given credit as the architect of the building.

In 1998, the building was renamed for Judge William Augustus Bootle, a Chief Judge from the Middle District of Georgia who issued several important rulings in Civil Rights cases. The William Augustus Bootle Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is significant as an example of the Greek Revival style; and due to its importance as an integral part of the Downtown Historic District and its role as a symbol of the Federal presence in Macon since 1905.

Year
Start
Year
End
Description Architect
1905 Original Construction James Knox Taylor
1931 1934 48,000 square foot addition added at the north Unknown