Joel W. Solomon Federal Building, Chattanooga, Tennessee
by Wendy Darling
Another look at the front facade, as seen from 10th St.
The Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and U.S. Court-house stands in the central business district of Chattanooga. Facing Georgia Avenue and across from Miller park, it occupies half a city block. The building is a notable example of the Art Moderne style as employed for government buildings in the 1930s.
The form and details recall the classicism of earlier government architecture but take a stylized form here seen in sleek lines, a vertical emphasis, and plant, animal, and geometric decorative motifs. Several of the motifs, such as eagles and stars, evoke patriotic associations that are particularly appropriate for a federal building. The five-story building has a steel structure clad in white marble. Two penthouses are set on projecting towers at the northwest and southwest corners.
On the west (main) elevation, end pavilions project from the towers. These flank a 13-bay central section with 13 three-story windows groups, recessed behind marble pilasters with fluted inner panels. A banded beltcourse running between the fourth floor and the parapet features a pattern of stars and eagles carved in low relief.
The building’s main entrances are set in the end pavilions. These are approached by wide steps of granite, with tiered cheek walls. Both upper cheek walls have stylized eagles carved into their corners. In each pavilion the paired and single entrance doors are surmounted by a curving window bay that rises four stories. Both are flanked by angled reveals, adorned with alternating fluted segments and foliate-motif plaques.