Federal Building, Ketchikan, AK
Location: 648 Mission St, Ketchikan, AK 99901
The beginnings of the Ketchikan Federal Building can be traced back to 1924 when the City of Ketchikan was constructing a new school house and little space was left on the school lot for playgrounds. The U.S. Courthouse, constructed in 1905, was located directly across the street and was apparently in "disrepair, inadequate for present needs, and unfavorably located in a residence section with its jail in close proximity to the school." The Ketchikan Women's Council developed a proposal where the City of Ketchikan agreed to donate a site for a new federal building, centrally located in the business district of the city, in exchange for the courthouse site to be used for a school playground.
On July 16, 1924 the Common Council of the City of Ketchikan adopted a memorandum to petition the federal government to make "ample appropriations" for the erection of a new courthouse or federal building. Copies of the memorandum were sent to the office of the Attorney General, the Treasury Department and the Committee on Territories in both the House and the Senate. The ground-breaking ceremonies on March 3, 1937 marked the end of years of continuous struggle by local agencies to obtain a new federal building. The building was designed by the Cleveland architectural firm of Garfield, Stanley-Brown, Harris and Robinson. The J.B. Warrack Construction Company was awarded the building contract of $320,000, not including the elevator, fixtures and furnishings.
The building officially opened on March 5, 1938, a year and a day after ground was first broken. Five times larger than the average federal building in cities of a population of 5,000, the building originally housed 11 governmental departments, services and bureaus. The post office occupied the entire L-shaped first floor, with service and lock box lobbies spanning the length of each wing. The district courtroom, offices and jail cells were located on the fifth floor.
In the 1950's, the movie "Cry Vengeance" was filmed in the Ketchikan Federal Building and the original layout of the first floor lobby can be seen in some of the scenes.
General Services Administration (GSA) acquired ownership of the building in 1976, after postal services were relocated to a new facility. In 1977-1978, GSA totally remodeled the building to create modern office space; and additional minor remodeling has occurred since. Remodeling has removed much of the historical significance on the 1st and 4th floors, the old jail space in the southern half of the 5th floor, and much of the private office space on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Intact historical interior elements include window trim; some doors, frames and trim; the entry vestibule floor and wall finishes; the courtroom and adjacent lobby, judge's chambers, and clerk of court's office; the elevator doors; and the northeast stair.
Of interest in the former jail cell area are four murals painted directly on the concrete block walls. These murals are believed to have been transferred from magazines and painted by prisoners who were members of the Tlingit and Haida Alaskan Indian tribes in the early 1980's. The murals are protected by plexiglass panels and available for limited viewing, located in a private office.
The exterior of the original building is largely intact, except where a new two-story wing was added at the west side of the south end of the original six-story tower. Windows were removed and openings infilled at a new stair added at the south end of the tower, and an insensitively-designed bump-out housing the stair's exterior vestibule was added at the first floor on the south end of the tower. Replacement windows, although not exact duplicates of the original design, match the original material (wood) and proportions. The exterior paint colors were originally white; the current pink and beige colors are not original.
- Architects: Garfield, Stanley-Brown, et.al.
- Construction Dates: 1937-1938
- GSA Building Number: AK0005AK
- National Register of Historic Places Landmark Status: National Register Listed