William O. Douglas Federal Building, Yakima, WA

William O. Douglas Federal Building, Yakima, WA

Building History

In 1884, the Northern Pacific Railway began operation through the largely agricultural Yakima County in Central Washington. Although the railroad bypassed Yakima, the county seat, Northern Pacific moved the entire town--and its one hundred buildings--four miles north. The new site was named North Yakima. The north designation was dropped by the action of the state legislature in 1918.

The first post office in Yakima opened in 1885. By 1910, federal officials selected a location for a new post office and courthouse building in the town. Designed by Supervising Architect of the Treasury James Knox Taylor, the building is Yakima's premier example of Second Renaissance Revival style architecture. To celebrate the grand building's opening in June 1912, Postmaster W.L. Lemon hosted an open house and employees led citizens on tours. The building's first tenants included the post office, federal courts, U.S. Marshals, Reclamation Service, Land Office, and Weather Bureau. The first court case was tried in the building in July 1912.

In 1926, a single-story annex was added to the rear of the building. In 1939, Supervising Architect of the Treasury Louis A. Simon designed three-story wings that extended the north and south elevations to the east; Simon also demolished and replaced the 1926 annex with a single-story addition that connected the wings. Construction was complete by 1940. In 1987, the architectural firm of Paddock & Hollingbery designed a two-story, brick-faced infill addition that was built on the existing rear addition. At the same time, interior spaces were renovated and restored, and the building's mechanical systems were upgraded to current standards.
In 1978, Congress passed a resolution to rename the building to honor Justice William O. Douglas, who served on the Supreme Court from 1939, when he was nominated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, until his retirement in 1975. Although born in Minnesota, Douglas grew up in Yakima. With a term of more than 36 years, Justice Douglas remains the longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.


The monumental William O. Douglas Federal Building is an excellent example of Second Renaissance Revival architecture, a classically inspired and dignified style that conveyed the stability of the federal government.

The nearly square, three-story structure features concrete spread footings, a steel frame, reinforced concrete floors, and exterior brick walls that are faced in high-quality granite and limestone. The symmetrical facade faces west onto South Third Street and first story is clad with deeply incised rusticated New Hampshire granite. This first-story articulation is a character-defining feature of Second Renaissance Revival architecture. A belt course divides the first and second levels. Smooth Indiana limestone panels clad the upper stories. Recessed bays flank a central, seven-bay, projecting pavilion. The street level is dominated by a series of regularly spaced round-arch openings containing both double-hung sash windows and entry doors, all of which feature fanlights. Radiating voussoirs surround each of the arched openings. Recessed entrances are located at each end of the projecting pavilion, and the entry stairs are flanked by tall, cast-bronze pedestal lamps topped with spherical globes. Articulated voussoirs capped with pediments top the pavilion's second story flat-arch windows. Textured consoles featuring anthemia leaves support the pediment's gable returns. Projecting window sills are supported by brackets that flank simple rectangular panels. Smaller square windows with prominent scrolled keystones are aligned above the second-story windows. Upper story windows are separated by two-story engaged Ionic columns that form an impressive colonnade that dominates the central upper bays of the facade. The colonnade supports an unadorned architrave and frieze that are surmounted by a molded cornice with prominent modillion blocks. A parapet with a classical balustrade tops the building.

The architects of subsequent additions successfully designed them to be compatible with the existing building. The wings, added in 1940, extend to the east on both the north and south elevations and employ similar materials and design tenets. However, instead of modillion blocks, a convex molding is in place on the wings' cornice. South wing walls are clad in buff-colored brick. The 1987 infill uses a similar brick finish.

Interior spaces retain many original materials and features. Although no longer a tenant, the post office originally occupied the first floor. Large round-arched postal windows with oak frames and sash remain in the postal lobby. Bronze postal lock boxes featuring Greek key patterns also allude to the space's prior use. Floors are covered in terrazzo with dark marble borders. The baseboard and wainscot are grey Vermont Light Cloud Rutland marble, while remaining wall surfaces are covered in plaster. A coffered ceiling tops the lobby and features pendant lights that date to 1940. A marble staircase is located at the lobby's south end.

The two-story, second-floor courtroom also retains some historic features. Details include original oak panel doors with classical surrounds, wainscot, baseboards, plaster walls with classically inspired panel molding, and ornamental plaster ceilings. Second-floor corridors have plaster walls with marble baseboards and oak chair rails. Square 1940 light fixtures remain.

Significant Events

1910 Yakima selected as site for new federal building

1912 Building completed

1926 One-story annex added to east elevation

1940 Annex demolished and wings and rear addition built

1978 Building named to honor Justice William O. Douglas

1979 Building listed in the National Register of Historic Places

1987 Two stories added to rear addition and interior restored

Building Facts

Location: 25 South Third Street

James Knox Taylor
Louis A. Simon
Paddock & Hollingbery

Construction Dates:

Architectural Style: Second Renaissance Revival

Landmark Status: Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Primary Materials: Limestone; Granite

Prominent Features:
Monumental, Classical Facade
Second-Story Ionic Colonnade
Former Postal Lobby with Historic Finishes

William O. Douglas Federal Building, Yakima, WA

The William O. Douglas Federal Building occupies a 150' x 140' corner site at South Third and Chestnut Streets in downtown Yakima. Nearly square in plan (118' x 126') the three story structure with a full basement was constructed in three stages. The original three-story building, completed in 1912, measured 118' x 72' with the front on South Third Street facing west. A small, one-story structure was added at the rear (east) in 1926. In 1940, the 1926 addition was removed and two, three-story wings were added to the east, extending the north and south facades. These wings were connected by a one story unit that established the present square footprint. Two stories were added to the one-story section in 1987 filling in the court created by the 1940 wings. Also in 1987 the interior was remodeled and HVAC and electric systems were upgraded to current standards.

The building, which occupies most of the site, has a 13' front setback from South Third Street and a 4' setback along Chestnut Street. Setback areas are primarily covered with grass. The north side of the building abuts a parking and loading area that was enclosed with an ornamental metal fence and gates in 1987. To the east (rear) of the building is a fenced parking lot that was enclosed in 2009.

The original structure has concrete spread footings, a steel frame, reinforced concrete floors and exterior brick walls faced with granite at the base and Indiana limestone at the upper floors. Original facades were symmetrical about both axes and were designed in the style of the Second Renaissance Revival. The front elevation is organized into nine bays with the central seven bays forming a pavilion that projects outward two feet from the corner bays. Horizontally, the facade is divided by a belt course at the second floor level and a full entablature at the roof line. Adding a touch of the Beaux Arts are the two story engaged Ionic columns that articulate the pavilion bays.

The first story exterior features a rusticated stone pattern, rectangular windows at the corners and round arched windows and doors with radiating voussoirs in the central pavilion. Public entrances, located at the outer bays of the pavilion, are reached by granite stairways which are flanked with nine-foot tall bronze, pedestal light fixtures topped with round, glass globes. Arched windows have double hung sash and fan-light transoms.

Second and third story windows are rectangular. In the central pavilion, window openings feature broken pediments supported by consoles. All window openings have projecting stone sills supported by corner brackets. The entablature features a plain architrave and frieze and a block modillion course under the molded cornice. Above the cornice is a balustraded parapet with a plain coping.

Original elevations at the north and south closely match the design of the front: projecting central pavilion with arched windows at the first story and pedimented openings at the second level. Pavilion bays at the second and third stories are framed with Ionic pilasters.

The 1940 addition continues the original design and materials on the southerly wing. The only difference from the original design is in the entablature where the block modillion course has been replaced with a torus molding. The northerly wing of the 1940 addition is in the same basic design as the south wing but is faced with buff colored brick above the granite base and below the stone entablature.

Later alterations to the west facade include: black anodized aluminum and glass entry doors that were added in 1987 (original revolving doors at the entries were replaced with hollow metal swinging doors in 1940); granite entrance steps (1987); and a ground level doorway in the northerly bay for handicap access (1987).

The 1987 infill on the east at the second and third floors continued the spirit and some of the substance of the original design. Brick facing is similar to the 1940 brick. The stone entablature is reduced to two simple horizontal bands. The parapet, which aligns with the original, also has a plain stone surface.

Security measures were added after 2003 to protect the building and its users. Bollards line the west and south streets (South Third and Chestnut Streets). The gated driveway at the north, between South Third Street and the alley and parking lot to the east, also prevents access. Landscaping was reduced to grass and a few shrubs to provide a clear view of the building.

INTERIOR - 1st Floor
The original first floor was entirely occupied by the post office with the primary public space being the west and south lobbies. Post office windows and boxes were framed in round arched openings, matching the window arches in the west elevation. The north bay in the lobby contained the Postmaster's Office. Floors are terrazzo with dark marble borders. Base and wainscot are gray, "Vermont Light Cloud Rutland" marble. Walls are of plain plaster. The beamed ceiling, also in plaster, is finished with classical moldings. Doors, sash, post office windows and other wood trim are in oak with a natural varnish finish. At the south end of the lobby is a stairway wrapping the elevator, both access the second and third floor and the basement. The stairs feature marble treads with wood handrail. The elevator hoist way has ornamental plaster at the corners. The 1940 lobby alterations included: wood frame and glass vestibules at the public entrances and modification of post office windows.

The post office moved to new quarters in the early 1970s and the space east of the lobby (the original postal workroom) was converted to offices for the Social Security Administration in 1987. The two post office windows at the north side of the south lobby were remodeled as display cases for interpreting the career of Justice William O. Douglas.

The Postmaster's office was originally located at the north end of the lobby. In 1987 it was removed and the lobby was extended north with stairs and a handicap stair lift leading to a ground level lobby at the handicap entrance door. The style, details, and materials of this entrance and staircase replicates the south stairs. In 1992 this area was again remodeled; the lift was removed and an elevator was installed to access the basement and first floor only. This elevator meets current ADA Standards. Lighting in this area, specifically the wall sconces, are not historically appropriate for the building, and these same style sconces are also found at the south stairway. See Space Type: LOBBY/CORRIDORS/STAIRCASES: 1st - 3rd Floors for light fixture recommendations.

COURTROOM - 1st Floor
In 1992 the first floor was again remodeled to provide for a new Magistrate's Courtroom and Chambers, and USMS space. The courtroom design replicates elements from the original lobby. Doors serving the courtroom were installed at the center bay in the lobby (doors and framing match original details). Lighting, however, is inappropriate in style and scale for the courtroom and will be replaced in 2009 with pendant fixtures, the sconces will remain.

Security measures were enlarged and moved to the lobby immediately inside the northwest entrance in 2008. Visitors must now enter through the northwest doors and pass through a security clearance system - a magnetometer - and pass items through x-ray examination equipment. The x-ray system and security guards are enclosed in a six-foot high, oak-framed and Plexiglas paneled workstation that is too large for the lobby. Windows at the first floor southeast corner, south, east, and north elevations have also been altered: bullet-proof glazing was installed for security purposes.

INTERIOR - 2nd Floor and 3rd Floor
Classical detailing is continued in the second floor corridor, courtroom, and offices. Beamed ceilings in the corridor match the plaster detailing of the first floor lobby. Corridor walls are plaster with oak chair rail and marble base. Original terrazzo and marble floors were covered with carpet in 1987 and again in 2009 Doors to the courtroom are of particular interest: original, paneled oak, bi-parting, pocket doors to the corridor are intact. Paneled oak swinging doors with glass vision panels were installed in 1987 at the interior of the original door opening. The 1987 courtroom doors replaced swinging doors that were finished at the interior with pigskin secured in place with brass tacks in a decorative pattern. These doors also had oval vision windows. These leather and brass tack doors are standard for historic courtrooms and should be replaced.

The original two-story courtroom, 36' x 56' and 22' high, is basically intact: paneled plaster walls, oak doors and door frames similar to those in the corridor, oak wainscot, and ornamental plaster ceiling. Acoustic fabric was added to the large, framed wall panels that imposes upon the historic feeling of the room. The courtroom was originally illuminated with gas and electric lighting. The current lighting in the Courtroom consists of large, ceiling-mounted, fluorescent fixtures that are not appropriate for the historic space.

Although partitions have been added and removed, most second and third floor office spaces retain historic elements: paneled doors, molded casings, baseboards, and chair rail, all in varnished oak. These wood details are simpler and smaller in profile in both the 1940 and 1987 alterations and additions. Original wood floors have been carpeted and acoustical tile ceilings were installed in 1987.

When the east addition was being planned in 1985 it was decided to retain and enclose the original, limestone faced, exterior east wall within the new interior corridor space. A two-story, three-foot wide void - extending the length of the third floor east corridor - was maintained along the east wall. An ornamental metal railing was installed along the length of the third floor corridor at the edge of the opening. Spanning the length of the ceiling above is a skylight at the roof that illuminates the corridor and the original limestone wall. Natural light washes the wall at the third floor level and through the length of the three-foot wide opening to the second floor level also.

Original men's restrooms are generally intact on the first, second, and third floors. Second and third floor restrooms have terrazzo floors, marble stall walls and wainscoting, paneled oak stall doors, oak framed mirrors, and plaster walls and ceilings. Original plumbing fixtures were replaced in 1940. The women's restrooms were added at the second and third floors in 1940. These rooms have the same elements as the men's rooms except for the first floor women's restroom; this space was completely remodeled with metal stalls, vinyl flooring, and modern plumbing fixtures, and finishes.

At each floor, ADA accessible restrooms were added in 1987. These small restrooms were created from adjacent spaces resulting in unisex restrooms with plumbing fixtures to serve the needs of handicapped building users.

Original cast-iron steam radiators, converted to hot water in 1987, have been maintained in the first floor lobby. Most of the original radiators were replaced with fin pipe in 1987. New boilers and an air cooling system were also installed in 1987. In 1992 a new air conditioning system was installed for the first floor. Also see the 2003 Building Engineering Report.

Lighting in the 1912 structure was originally both gas and electric. While none of the original fixtures remain in place, a few gas outlets are extant throughout the building. (One of the simple pipe original fixtures that was removed is located in the basement storage room). During the 1940 remodeling, the entire building was rewired and new light fixtures were installed in the corridors. Some of these fixtures are intact - the copper pendant lights in the first floor lobby. In the remainder of the building, later inappropriate lighting replaced originals; square or rectangular, ceiling-mounted, fluorescent fixtures were installed at the second and third floor corridors and upper floor offices and several wall sconces at stairways. Light fixture types/styles and fixture numbers according to those specified in the 1939 remodel are noted for replacement in the following inventory of spaces. Some of these have already been reproduced by St. Louis Antique Lighting Company and are immediately available. All zone 1 & 2 areas should have original fixtures returned. Original telephone cabinets are intact at the second and third floors. In 2009 the fire alarms are scheduled for replacement. Also see the 2003 Building Engineering Report.

In 2009 the parking lot at the east (southeast corner of Chestnut and South 4th Streets) was reconfigured to create a more secure enclosed parking area. A primary entrance/exit gate is located at the east on south 4th Street with a secondary gate at the south - Chestnut Street. A card reader/key pad is positioned at the east gate for user entry.

William O. Douglas Federal Building, Yakima, WA

The William O. Douglas Federal Building, completed in 1912, is significant as Yakima's finest example of Second Renaissance Revival/Beaux Arts architecture and as the embodiment of Federal government activity in the region.

On the stone exterior of the original building the Second Renaissance Revival and Beaux Arts design is exemplified by the symmetrical organization, rusticated first floor with arched windows, second level belt course, pedimented windows at the second floor, two-story engaged Ionic columns, full entablature with modillions and classical cornice and a balustraded parapet. The wings added to the east in 1940 continue the original design - limestone and granite facing matches the original on the south and east elevation of the south wing - while brick was installed as the facing on the north elevation and east elevation of the north wing.

The two-story addition in the east court, added in 1987, is finished in brick similar to the 1940 north wing and was designed in a simplified classical manner that is compatible with the original architecture. The Second Renaissance Revival is continued on the interior of all wings and is clearly expressed in the classical detailing of the primary spaces: the first floor lobby, second floor courtroom and second and third floor corridors.

In 1870, the first post offices in the region were established in the neighboring towns of Moxee, Ahtanum, and Yakima City (now Union Gap). North Yakima became the regional hub in the mid-1880s when the Northern Pacific Railroad tracks were laid through what is now downtown Yakima. The first Post Office opened in 1885. It moved several times over the course of the next twenty-five years. In 1910 plans were developed for a new, permanent post office building by local Postmaster W. L. Lemon and Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department, James Knox Taylor. When first constructed as the "U.S. Post Office" for North Yakima, the building housed all of the Federal offices that served Central Washington. In addition to the post office, tenants included the U.S. Courts, U.S. Marshal, the Reclamation Service, Land Office, and Weather Bureau. On June 22, 1912, Postmaster Lemon held an evening open house to celebrate completion of the building. The Old North Yakima Historic District is located two blocks to the northwest of the Federal Building.

The building was renamed the "William O. Douglas Federal Building" on October 27, 1978. Douglas was raised near Yakima and attended Whitman College in Walla Walla and then Columbia University. He was appointed a Supreme Court Justice by President Roosevelt in 1939 and served until 1975.

Description Architect
1911 1912 Original Construction James Knox Taylor
1926 One Story Addition at Rear (East) Louis A. Simon
1938 1940 Two 3 Story Wings at N/S, 1 Story at Center E Louis A. Simon
1987 2 Story Add, E, General Remodel and Restoration Paddock & Hollingberry
1992 Remod.1st Fl: New Courtroom, USMS, Judges Chambers McMath Hawkins Dortignacq
Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13