Joel W. Solomon Federal Building, Chattanooga, Tennessee
by Wendy Darling
Close-up of a building corner.
The Joel Soloman Federal Building and Courthouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee is significant as an example of the Art Deco style of Architecture; it is part of the body of work of a noted local architect; and it is a symbol of the Federal presence in Chattanooga. The Joel Soloman Federal Building and Courthouse is an example of the Art Deco style (popular in the 1930s) for the following reasons: its exterior is clad with smooth materials for sleek lines; it has vertical bays of windows providing an emphasis on verticality; it has a flat parapet roof; it has rectilinear bands of ornamentation in the form of integrated, low-relief sculpted stone panels; and it has ornamental doorways.
Local architect Reuben Harrison Hunt designed many public buildings and became a leader in the field of architecture across the South. Hunt was Chattanooga’s first significant architect and was important in the city’s architectural development. Hunt arrived in Chattanooga in the 1880s. Throughout his long career (fifty plus years) his work reflected the popular styles of the day - Gothic Revival, Romanesque Revival, Beaux Arts Classicism, Neo-Classicism, Georgian Revival, and finally, Art Deco. The Federal Building and Courthouse was Hunt’s last major work in Chattanooga. It was chosen by the American Institute of Architects in 1938, as one of the 150 best buildings in the country, constructed since 1918, and, as such, was part of a photography exhibit displayed throughout the United States and Europe. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of a thematic group nomination based on the buildings within Hamilton County designed by R.H. Hunt.
The building is located in the Central Business District of Chattanooga at the corner of 10th and Georgia Streets. It is highly visible in the downtown area due to its location adjacent to a major downtown park. Since its construction in 1933, the building has served as a Post Office and Courthouse. Though no longer the main Post Office for the city, the postal function still resides visibly in the building, and is an integral part of life in the city. Occupying an entire block, the building is a continuing symbol of the Federal presence in Chattanooga.