The Old Customs House, as it appeared in 1886 Throughout the 1850s, Congress was petitioned by cities across the country to provide courtrooms and post offices. Congress was reluctant to provide funding for buildings that only contained judicial and postal functions, so the title "Customs House" was typically used instead of "courthouse" or "post office." Congress was viewed as more agreeable to providing construction funding if excise taxes collected from foreign imports were linked to projects, since taxes generated revenue. Congress originally appropriated funding for Knoxville's Customs House in 1856, and reappropriated the funding in 1869.Construction of the original portion of the Customs House (at the corner of Clinch and Market), designed by U.S. government chief architect Alfred B. Mullett (1834–1890), began in 1871 and was completed in 1874. The first floor was used as a post office, while the second and third floors were used for the federal court and as office space for various federal officials, namely postal inspectors, pension agents, court officials, and internal-revenue officers. As Knoxville's population quadrupled in the late 19th century, the increased postal activity left the Customs House critically overcrowded, and thus the building was enlarged in 1910. A 1913 government document describes the building as "clean and well kept," with a "large and roomy" workroom for postal employees. The document stated that the building had its own steam plant for heating, and used electricity provided by the Knoxville Railway & Light Company.