Joel W. Solomon Federal Building, Chattanooga, Tennessee
by Wendy Darling
I was lucky enough to enjoy a long weekend in lovely Chattanooga, which in addition to being overall great, has a good number of Deco buildings. But the showstopper is definitely this 1930s post office / courthouse, which was directly across from my hotel on 10th St. Amazing! I took a whole lot of pictures, some of which I will group, some of which will go on their own.
Now to start off, some background (more coming):
The Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse was constructed in 1932-1933 as the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse. It was the last major work by eminent Chattanooga architect Reuben Harrison Hunt (1862–1937) whose career spanned more than five decades. Hunt designed every major public building constructed in Chattanooga between 1895 and 1935. He was also the architect of local churches, hospitals, and private office buildings, as well as similar public and private buildings throughout the South.
Chattanooga’s Post Office and Courthouse was built as part of an expanded federal construction program, undertaken in the 1930s under the direction of Supervising Architect Louis A. Simon. This program resulted in the construction of new post offices and courthouses throughout the United States and provided employment to many architects, engineers, artists, and construction workers. The Post Office and Courthouse cost approximately $493,000.
In 1938 the building was recognized by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 150 finest buildings constructed in the previous twenty years in the United States, and it was featured in an AIA photographic exhibit in America and Europe.
Prominent U.S. District Court cases have been heard in the building. In 1960 the filing of a major civil rights lawsuit, Mapp et al. vs. the City of Chattanooga Board of Education, initiated the desegregation of the city’s public schools. It was also the site of Jimmy Hoffa’s 1964 conviction for jury tampering.
The U.S. Post Office and Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, as part of a thematic nomination of the most significant buildings of Reuben Harrison Hunt.
The U.S. General Services Administration assumed ownership of the building in 1981 and renamed it in honor of Joel “Jay” W. Solomon, a Chattanooga native and Administrator of GSA from 1977 to 1979. The main Chattanooga Post Office has relocated, but the building still houses federal courts and offices.