U.S. Courthouse and Post Office

Also known as: Federal Building
46 E. Ohio St., Indianapolis, Indiana

U-shaped Italian Renaissance building clad in Indiana Limestone with Ionic Colonnade

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Overview Looking Northeast

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in August 2016

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Street View 

Description 

"The building, located on the block bounded by Ohio St., Meridian St., Pennsylvania St., and New York St., was designed to house federal courts, offices, and the main city postoffice. These functions were accommodated in a four-story extended U-shaped building 91 ft. high, 172.5 ft. wide, and 355.5 ft. long, with its symmetrical long facade facing south on to Ohio Street. The structure is of steel, the floors and flat roof of reinforced concrete, and the exterior walls are sheathed in Indiana limestone detailed in the Italian Renaissance style. The classic dignity of the rhythmic Ionic pilastered facade is enhanced by a raised stone-balustraded terrace regularly punctuated with bronze light fixtures. A heavy classical cornice terminates the vertical thrust of the pilasters and provides an appropriate cap to the monumental facade. The construction of a fivestory addition, completed in 1938, closes the original U-shaped plan, creating a light court for the upper floors and extending the classic facade around the building. The two main entrances, at either end of the south facade, are accented by pairs of heroic statues by John Massey Rhinde, leading into the Bedford stone-vaulted entrance lobbies.

"The first floor and basement originally housed the post office. Ornate glass mosaic ceiling designs, marble-clad and pilastered walls and intricate marble floor patterns decorated the first floor public corridors. The original marble floors were replaced with terazzo flooring of similar design in 1963. An important interior feature is a set of two two-story self supporting curving marble staircases that flank the entrance lobbies.

"The second floor houses the Department of Justice quarters, including two federal courtrooms. The third, fourth, and partial fifth floors house federal offices. The Law Library, originally described as the most handsome space in the building, but now greatly altered, is located in the center front of the second floor. The west courtroom contains an impressive array of decorations, including behind the bench a large mural 'Appeal to Justice' by, W. B. Van Ingen, a pupil of Thomas Eakins whose murals decorate several federal buildings, including the Congressional Library in Washington. The walls of this courtroom feature gray and white marble pilasters with bases and Corinthian capitals of bronze, separated by mahogany-framed gold-brocaded panels. Above the pilasters are painted the seals of the 13 original colonies and the state of Indiana. The 30-foot ceiling is divided into circular and octagonal panels, decorated with classic motifs and illuminated in gold and silver. Two large stained-glass windows, massive mahogany furnishings, marble floor and intricate bronze rail and additional testimony to the tasteful opulence of this noteworthy climax of monumental government architecture in the early 20th century.

"The Federal Building is an excellent example of the Classic Revival style popular for public buildings at the turn'of the century. Its interior is noted for two handsome self-supporting marble stairways, ornate mosaic tile clad vaulted ceilings, and trim of imported and domestic marble and carved wood, all representative of opulent public architecture of the early 20th century.

"The site for the U.S. Courthouse Postoffice Building was purchased in 1900 for $626,000 under the authorization of a congressional appropriation bill passed on March 1, 1899. The original section of the building was designed by the Philadelphia architects John Hall Rankin and Thomas W. Kellog. The John Pierce Co. of New York submitted the lowest construction bid for the project $1,267,530 for the building exclusive of art work, equipment, and furnishings. E L C. Strathman was superintendent of construction and James Knox Taylor supervising architect for the Treasury Department. Ground was broken on May 29, 1902, and the cornerstone was laid March 25, 1903. The building was completed in September, 1905 to accommodate 925 federal employees.

"Construction of the North third of the building began on September 24, 1936 and was completed May 21, 1938 at a cost of $1,536,871. This addition extended the classical facade around the north side of the building and furthermore provided an appropriate classic elevation facing the important six block long, Beaux Arts Inspired Indiana War Memorial Plaza, terminated at .the north, by,. Paul P. Cret's 1917 masterpiece of classic revival design, the Indianapolis Public Library.

"A $2,000,000 program to repair and air-condition [sic] the building was undertaken in 1962, resulting in the restoration of the building to its original grandeur."

Quotation from the National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form prepared by Bruce E. Goetaman Architect, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 1, 1973. A link to the document is listed below under "Sources."

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on January 11, 1974
Reference number
74000033
Architectural styles
Late 19th and 20th Century Revival; Late 19th and 20th Century Revival: Classical Revival
Areas of significance
Politics/Government; Architecture
Level of significance
State
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Building
Historic functions
Courthouse; Post office; Government office
Current functions
Government office; Courthouse; Post office
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1925-1949
Significant years
1905; 1938

Update Log 

  • October 16, 2016: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated status, added description and added photos
  • December 23, 2013: New Street View added by Brent Tindall

Sources