National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco
The building reflects several influences: the Beaux-Arts school of architecture, the federal traditions of the early republic, and the Italian Renaissance.
It was designed by James Knox Taylor, Supervising Architect of the United States Treasury Department which had charge of all federal buildings of a civil nature. It is probably the most ornate of all public buildings west of the Mississippi being rivaled only by the State Capitols of Utah and perhaps Colorado. The interior resembles the Library of Congress, the United States Capitol, and the New York Custom House.
The structure is of brick faced with granite. The interior marble was imported from Italy, including Carrara, and from North Africa. Italian workmen were hired as woodcarvers, stonemasons, and marble workers.
The courtrooms contain splendid marble statues and frescoes depicting the colonial conquests of the United States in the Pacific, scenes of ocean commerce, and symbolic figures.
Six months after the building was occupied in 1905, it was seriously damaged by the 1906 Earthquake, and the subsequent fire threatened to destroy it. Valuable records were placed in vaults. Oil lines were plugged. Fire hoses were rigged. Wet sand bags were piled against inner doors. The fire was confined to a few rooms, and court records and other documents dating from the 1850's are still extant.
The building was damaged by the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989. After extensive restoration, renovation, and seismic retrofitting, it reopened in 1996 as the United Sates Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The lobby is usually open to the public. The former Main Post Office and some court rooms can be visited on regularly scheduled guided tours.
Adapted from the NRHP Nomination Form
The Office of the Supervising Architect was an agency of the United States Treasury Department that designed federal government buildings from 1852 to 1939.
1869: United States Mint, Carson City
1888: Federal Government Building, Carson City
1912: United States Post Office, Chico
1910: United States Post Office and Courthouse, Eureka
1933: United States Post Office and Courthouse, Las Vegas
1932: United States Post Office, Marysville
1915: United States Post Office and Courthouse, Medford
1933: United States Post Office and Federal Building, Modesto
1933: United States Post Office, Petaluma
1893: United States Post Office and Courthouse, San Francisco
1910: United States Post Office and Federal Building, Santa Rosa