William M. Steger U.S. Courthouse, Tyler, TX
The Federal Building/USPO/Courthouse in Tyler, Texas is a three story Classical Revival structure. The main elevation faces south. The building sits on a dark grey, mottled granite base. The first floor of the building is clad with limestone. The second and third floors are clad with salmon-pink colored brick. Scrolled pediment window surrounds extend above the cornice of limestone. The frieze is ornamented by rosette bosses. There is a deep frieze at the attic level which consists of a carved, relief band at the top which features steer heads with swags between. The architrave is ornamented at intervals by groups of four shields representing the Post Office, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, and a pine tree. A acroterian appears on the parapet on each corner of the building. The limestone main entry pavilion is slightly projected at the center of the south elevation. Paneled limestone pilasters support a crested limestone architrave. The cresting consists of a series of eagles flanked by scrollwork and separated by a palmette motif. Acroterians appear at the corners. The frieze below the cresting is unornamented except for incised words designating the building "UNITED STATES POST OFFICE AND COURTHOUSE". The main entry sits within a limestone surround. The surround is slightly projected and displays various motifs. The interior border is lined with circular bosses; the architrave features rosette bosses; and the cresting consists of a central palmette with acrotarians at each corner. Above the main entry at the second and third floor loevels, the facade is recessed forming a balcony. The wall of stell-framed windows here is covered with cast bronze grilles. The bank of windows is framed by an inner border of bundled leaves and an outer border of fretwork. Terraced cheek walls are surmounted by the original granite drums which serve as a base for massice bronze urn-style lights. The 1976 building connects to the older building at the east side on the forth bay of windows. The southeast facade is finished in the same manner as the south elevation. The west elevation repeats the detailing of the south (except for the entry pavilion) at the southwest and northwest pavilions. The central pavilion is recessed and is only two stories tall. Materials and windows are the same. In 1986, a contemporary fire stair tower was added at the center of the west elevation. The fire stair tower reflects the materials of the west elevation with matching brick on the upper floor and cast sone to simulate the limestone. Ornamentation (except for the main entry) and fenestration are the same on the west as on the south elevation. The original pitched roof is clad with textured clay tiles The flat roof at the second floor level is tar and gravel. The north elevation includes the formal postal loading dock. The dock itself has concrete floors and brick walls. Ornamentation on the upper floors of the north is the same as on the other elevations. The courtroom windows were blocked-in, however, the spandrels remain. Significant interior spaces include the marble lobby with its Pink Kasota marble walls and ornamented panel ceiling, the ceremonial courtroom with its full-height red gum paneled walls; and the marble staircase.
The Federal Building/United States Post Office/Courthouse in Tyler, Texas is significant as a symbol of the federal presence in Tyler. In 1826, the Mexican government gave permission for five hundred Anglo-Americans to settle in east Texas. Smith County was recognized by the first Texas legislature in 1846 and Tyler was incorporated and recognized as the county seat. Tyler developed rapidly, and, by the 1850s, the Texas Supreme Court and the Federal court were located in Tyler. Tyler continued to evolve as a regional center of east Texas, partially due to the east Texas oil fields and partially due to agriculture. In 1885 a red brick Post Office was built on Ferguson Street. The original building was demolished in 1933 and the newer one constructed on the site.
The passage of the Public Buildings Act of 1926 precipitated a period of building construction that was unprecedented in the United States. The Public Buildings Act specified that the office of the Supervising Architect of the Department of Treasury would be responsible for the design and construction of all public buildings. The Federal Building was constructed during this period, in 1934. The office of the Supervising Architect of the Department of Treasury designed the Federal Buildings of the early 1930s. Occasionally a private architectural firm was hired to design a public building. Perhaps due to the failure of over half of the nation's architectural firms during the Depression, the design of public buildings by local firms was encouraged by the mid-1930s. The Federal Building in Tyler was designed by Shirley Simons, a local architect. Many of the Federal buildings of this period exhibit streamlined, almost austere, finishes and features, as evidenced in the streamlined Classical Revival design of the Federal Building.
Since 1885 a Federal Building has stood on this site. In 1976 a new Federal Building was constricted and physically connected to the east side, center section of the 1934 building. Together the two buildings form a Federal complex. The 1943 building continues to serve the community as a Federal courthouse and as a continuing symbol of the Federal presence in Tyler.