Federal Building/U.S. Courthouse, Dothan, AL
Location: 100 W Troy St, Dothan, AL 36303
The Dothan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 31, 1974. The building was nominated at the state and local levels under Criterion A for its significance in the area of Government and under Criterion C for Architecture. The period of significance is from 1900 to 1924 (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1974).
The Dothan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is listed under Criterion A for its significance in the area of Government for its association with the unprecedented expansion of the Federal Presence into cities and small towns throughout the nation during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Between 1900 and 1916, it was estimated that $180 million was spent by the government for the design and construction of public buildings in the United States (Bruns 1998:74). New facilities such as combined customhouses, courthouses, and post offices were erected in many communities such as Dothan that previously did not accommodate any buildings that served as representatives of Federal authority. Funding for development was generally provided through congressional omnibus public-building bills. Opponents often decried these projects as expensive pork-barrel spending that was subject to political demands and too frequently dictated by local reasons and without regard to the best interests of the Government. Supporters countered that new construction was more financially prudent than renting and that federal architecture could stir patriotic sentiment and foster love of country in the hearts and minds of the youth of the country (Craig and Staff of the Federal Architecture Project 1978:242-243).
By 1910, the Office of the Supervising Architect maintained a two-year backlog of projects due to the frenzied pace of congressional authorizations for new federal buildings. In an effort to stem spending, the House Committee on Public Buildings mandated a limit of one project for each member in 1912. Despite additional restrictions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department, the rate of federal construction did not began to subside until 1917 with the onset of World War I (Bruns 1998:80, 84). Today, almost one-third of all federally owned buildings in the U.S. General Service Administrations inventory over 50 years of age were erected during the period from 1900 to 1929 (U.S. General Services Administration 2008:7).
The Dothan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is listed under Criterion C for its significance in the area of Architecture as an example of the Neo-Classical style designed by James Knox Taylor under the U.S. Treasury Departments Office of the Supervising Architect. The return to academic classicism became a popular national trend among the architectural profession in response to the Beaux-Arts architecture displayed during the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This change in style coincided with a declining interest in the picturesque design of the Gothic, Second Empire, and Romanesque styles, which became commonly associated with the Victorian Era and European ideals. In contrast, the orderliness of classical architecture was viewed as modern, but also hearkened back to the country's revolutionary past (Lee 2000:165, 191). In the late 1890s under supervising architect William Aiken, classical styles began to gain favor as the preferred motif befitting the stature and authority of the federal government. James Knox Taylor exclusively utilized Beaux Arts, Neo-Classical, and Italian Renaissance Revival styles in his public building designs. Due to the large scope of authorized building projects during his tenure from 1897 through 1912, he would often recycle designs, making only slight modifications to account for local tastes and site requirements in different cities (Bruns 1998:80-81). Taylors successors in the Office of the Supervising Architect, Oscar Wenderoth and James A. Wetmore, would continue to employ neo-classical designs for federal construction projects through the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1983, the Dothan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse was also included as a contributing property to the Dothan Main Street Commercial District. The National Register Historic District was nominated under Criteria A and C in the areas of Commerce and Architecture. The district contains 49 buildings within 180 acres on East Main, Foster, St. Andrews, Crawford and Troy streets in downtown Dothan.
- GSA Building Number: AL0019ZZ
- Landmark Status: National Register Listed