Another Art Exhibit!

Great News - Jessica Armstrong has gotten us a show at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts! Friday August 7th is the opening date. Come see us on the First Friday Art trail from 6-9!

What is the current use of this building????

We have been trying to get some news coverage of our attempt to bring attention to the Federal Building in the hopes of finding a way to restore it. Well, after 6 months of hard work by a very dedicated group of artists, and a very successful art opening at Tornado Gallery, the building did get mentioned in the local paper....

Sadly for those of us that put our hearts and souls into this project, the AJ got the facts wrong and made all of us look very foolish in the eyes of anyone who read the paper today (Sunday Oct. 12, 2008) Maybe part of that is our fault for not being clear here on this blog. We are not trying to restore a building that is currently in use....we are trying to save an obviously forgotten landmark.

Here are the facts about the CURRENT USE of the building at 800 Broadway:

It is CURRENTLY EMPTY with a leaky ceiling in the third floor courtroom and feral cats in the basement.

It is currently being used as a training facility for the Lubbock Police Swat Team

It is currently being used for storage of tax record books from the 1930's and earlier.

It is currently a forgotten Lubbock Landmark.
Being on the National Register of Historic Places does not save a building.
The community does.

The building has been empty for about 8 years so I feel that the Avalnche Journal owes an apology to us and to it's readers for not checking the facts.

National Register of Historic Places nomination 1995

In 1995 Lubbock County put forth the effort to get the Lubbock Post Office and Federal Building listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The form was prepared by Gary W. Smith, AIA with assistance from Bruce Jensen, THC Architectural Historian.
There is a lot of wonderful information here and with the current interest in celebrating Lubbock’s Centennial, and the controversy over the proposed Visitor’s Center I encourage you to read, remember, and think of the possibilities…..

”Constructed between 1931 & 1932, the 3-story Lubbock Post Office and Federal Building grafts the symmetry and detailing typical of the late Classical Revival style onto a rectangular plan. The building provides the focal point of an enclave of public buildings along Broadway, one of the main thoroughfares in the community’s central business district. Limestone sheathing on the arcaded ground floor contrasts with buff brick upper floors in a visual allusion to an Italian Renaissance palazzo. Completing the classical references, a pedimented entry bay with colossal spaces intact, the building retains a significant degree of historic integrity of design, materials and workmanship, as well as location, setting, feeling and association.”

Narrative Description (NRHP nomination)

"The building lies within the central business district of Lubbock, Texas on a site that was once the southeast corner of the original “Courthouse Square”. It remains in close proximity to the Lubbock County Jail (1931), as well as the more recent Federal Building (1968) that replaced it.

Essentially rectangular in plan, the 3-story building faces south onto Broadway Avenue, the main thoroughfare. The slightly projecting portico and light wells on the second and third levels of the north elevation provide the only breaks in the rectangular form.

"Symmetrical in design, the Federal Building’s tripartite (south) façade consists of a central pedimented portico flanked by hipped roof extensions on each side. The composition also divides horizontally into three sections, with the lower level faced with limestone and the upper levels sheathed in a blend of buff brick. Red and orange mission clay tiles clad the hipped roof.

"The central portico dominates the façade of the building. Leading up to the main entrance is a wide stairway of gray granite steps flanked by projecting stone plinths. Iron lamp standards top each plinth. Three recessed vertical bays characterize the portico, with the first level containing three arched entrances. Within each archway, pairs of bronze and glass doors provide access to the interior. Rectangular glazed panels with decorative lead tracery are capped by arched transoms to complete the entry composition.

Second and third levels feature a recessed window in each bay. Colossal order Ionic columns vertically divide the windows. A bronze flagpole holder mounted on the ledge below the columns appeared on construction documents, but has evidently been removed.

Bronze bas-relief sculptures mounted on white marble panels fill the spandrels between the second and third floor windows.

A dolphin,

an eagle

and compass

represent the transportation of mail via the oceans, the air and the earth. A limestone pediment decorated with a single carved stone eagle surmounts this composition.

“The exterior walls feature veneers of ashlar-cut limestone blocks on the basement and first floor levels. Deep light wells extend down to the basement level on either side of the entrance steps, with double hung steel windows lighting this level.

Windows on the first floor consist of tripartite casement sashes surmounted by arched transoms. A stone stringcourse provides the transition between the first and second levels. Stylized shields centered in each bay ornament this band.

“Blended buff brick faces the second and third floors, with white rectangular marble panels serving as spandrels between the second and third story windows. Lining up vertically with the first floor fenestration, these rectangular windows feature similar materials and configurations. Another limestone stringcourse skimming the tops of the third story windows, a brick band studded with rectangular stone panels carved in a floral pattern, and broad stone eaves visually comprise the cornice of this classical composition.

“The 6-bay secondary (east & west) elevations feature identical detailing. At the south end of the east elevation, a pair of wrought iron sconces flanks an arched auxiliary entrance.
A small rectangular penthouse surmounts the building above the east elevation. The north elevation features only five banks of windows and a pair of exterior stairs at either end. Leading down to the basement, these stairwells historically flanked a 5-bay loading dock. Additions to the jail in the 1980s and renovations on the Federal Building obscured or eliminated four of these entrances.

“Interior spatial configurations and detailing survive relatively intact, although often beneath a layer of recent modifications such as suspended ceilings and temporary relocation of walls. The interior plan of the main floor has suffered the highest level of reconfiguration, with the removal of many original walls. Apart from the installation of suspended ceilings in corridors, the original configurations of the second and third floor spaces survive. Original finishes such as exposed concrete floors, wall bases, painted plaster walls and ceilings, wood doors and wood trim survive in scattered locations throughout the building.

“Perhaps the most intact space is the Federal Courtroom on the third floor. Marble surrounds and simple classical pediments frame two pairs of raised doors with brass knobs and plates that provide access to this space. A paneled wainscot of stained white oak encircles the room at a height of nine feet, six inches.

The ceiling features a tri-colored (blue, green, peach) stenciled floral pattern divided into eight rectangular panels. Currently this space is used as a court room for the county’s Court Master. (Jan.1995)

“Serving as the center of federal activities in Lubbock until construction of the current federal building in 1968, this building is presently owned by Lubbock County. While the first and second floors house several county departments, the courtroom is currently used for hearings on family law matters.(Jan.1995) The building remains a prominent fixture in the downtown area, retaining a significant degree of historic integrity of design, materials and workmanship, as well as location, setting, feeling and association.”

“An imposing classical public building, the Lubbock Post Office and Federal Building provides visual testament to the significant role played by the federal government in establishing the community as the focal point of Texas’ South Plains region. As this period coincided with an era of unprecedented growth and construction in Lubbock and the surrounding region, the building symbolically represented Washington’s recognition of the community’s status as the hub of the South Plains region. Deviations from standard designs of the era reflect political efforts by Lubbock’s citizens to ensure that local building traditions would be incorporated into an other wise bureaucratic design process. The building is significant on the local level under Criterion A in the area of Politics/Government as the visual reminder of this relationship between local civic leaders and federal officials. As the earliest surviving representative of the federal presence in the city, the building gives testament to the increasingly important role of the federal government in the life of the community in the early 1930’s. Perceived as a modern adaptation of Italian Renaissance architectural forms at the time of its construction, the prominent building is a significant example of classicism popular for public architecture in the 1920s and early 1930s. The building is therefore eligible on the local level under Criterion C in the area of Architecture as the best surviving example of this type of architecture.”

Footnote: The last occupants vacated the building about 2001.

South Plains History - (NRHP nomination)

“Prior to 1890 and the establishment of the community of Lubbock, much of the South Plains region lay on the fringes of the United States Postal Service’s range of operation. The flat grasslands that characterized the region were sparsely populated by Anglo Americans. The operator of a store in Yellowhouse Canyon, E.R. DeQuazy served as the first official postmaster in the vicinity of the present community, receiving his appointment on 31 March 1884 (Levacy, 1992). George Singer operated another trading post in the same canyon. When DeQuazy closed his operation in mid-summer of 1884, Singer assumed the role of postmaster. Singer’s store thereafter functioned as the social center for the area. In August 1890 two towns were established near Singer’s store – Lubbock on the north side of Yellowhouse Canyon and Monterey on the south side. The position of postmaster subsequently shifted to Lubbock, where Frank E. Wheelock assumed the duties of postmaster in November 1890 (Levacy, 1992)”

“In late 1890 local citizens joined forces to establish a central town for the area to avoid a fight over the designation of the county seat. They selected a neutral site near the two older communities, keeping the Lubbock name to facilitate postal service. They quickly migrated to the new town site, moving buildings in their entirety from Monterey and the original Lubbock site (Graves, 78). Wheelock brought the mail service with him to the new community, operating out of his land office on South First Street, now the 900 block of Broadway (Perkins, 46). This location placed the post office facing north onto the town’s courthouse square.”

“The introduction of rail service by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1909 clearly established Lubbock as the postal distribution center for the South Plains. As a result, the Post Office moved into a dedicated facility in a small frame building at the northwest corner of Cedar Ave. and North First Street, now Texas Ave and Main Street (Graves, 14). Rail service also facilitated the replacement of less fire-resistant buildings in the city with masonry buildings. The railroad’s lower freight costs increased access to building materials such as brick and stone lacking in the sandy South Plains region. In response, citizens began campaigning for a new and more permanent postal facility, resulting in the allocation of $60,000 in federal money for a new postal facility in February 1919 (Lubbock AJ 20 Feb 1919). The new building just past South First Street (now Broadway) on Cedar Ave (now Texas Ave) opened in November 1919.”

“During the 1920s, Lubbock’s heavy population growth greatly affected the city’s postal system. Recognizing the need for a new facility, Chamber of Commerce officials began writing to postal authorities as early as 1923 (Chamber of Commerce records, 1923). These efforts marked the beginning of the endeavor to build a new Lubbock Post Office. Local leaders regularly corresponded with officials in Washington during this period, increasing their efforts following the designation of Lubbock as the site of the Texas Technological College in 1925. Natural forces escalated the campaign when heavy rains collapsed the roof of the existing post office on 30 May 1926 for the second time in nine months. Postmaster John L. Vaughn appealed to public and private organizations to lobby government officials for a new and well-built federal building (Lubbock Journal, 30 May 1926).”

A.B.Davis puts Lubbock on the map

A lot of folks can look at a situation and see all the reasons it won’t work. Happily there are those special individuals who won’t let go of an idea until they find a way to make it work.

“Alaric Brandt (A.B.) Davis, Lubbock’s long time civic leader, used his position as manager of the Chamber of Commerce to spearhead the effort to get a new building. He wrote the area’s representatives in Congress, the Postmaster General, and other influential people to enlist their support for the project, supplying details of Lubbock’s need for a new building. Local postal receipts amounting to approximately $10,000 per quarter in 1923 doubled to nearly $20,000 per quarter by 1926 (Chamber of Commerce Records, 1926). This increase reflected dramatic growth in population in the city and the region. During the same period the South Plains boasted 100% increases in both the number of farms and the amount of tilled acreage. By the end of the decade, the sixteen South Plains counties had experienced a population growth of 167%, nearly seven times the state average and ten times the national one. By the end of 1926, the city of Lubbock boasted an estimated population of 17,500, more than four times its size in 1920 (Graves,421). These figures, coupled with the fact that Lubbock served as the postal center for 74 other area post offices, evidently caught the attention of government leaders.”

“Concurrent efforts to secure a federal court for Lubbock led Davis to write R.B. Creager, a member of the Republican National Committee familiar with earlier lobbying efforts on behalf of the postal facility. Davis reminded Creager of a bill calling for a new Federal Court at Lubbock, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives before World War I (Chamber of Commerce Records, 1926). Participation in the war postponed enactment of this legislation until Representative Marvin Jones of Amarillo introduced a similar bill in 1925. Jones’ effort to establish a new Lubbock Division of the Northern Judicial District of Texas failed. Significant growth in the region spurred by the discovery of oil, however, prompted Davis and other civic leaders to renew the campaign for a federal court designation. Lubbock’s leaders sought to bolster their chances of securing a new post office by creating the need for a court facility.”

Davis’s and Postmaster Vaughn’s letters coincided with efforts in Washington to augment investment in public buildings. The Public Buildings Act in 1926 empowered a building commission to base appropriations for location and size of new buildings on criteria such as volume of business. A survey report completed under the direction of the act identified more than 2,300 communities with postal receipts over $10,000 that lacked adequate facilities (Historic U.S. Post Offices in Washington, E11). The Treasury Department placed Lubbock’s case on their agenda in June 1926, recommending $165,000 for a new post office in Lubbock in January 1927 (Chamber of Commerce Records, 1927). The recommendation still required Congressional action, however, and no monies were actually set aside for the Lubbock project in 1927.

In 1928 Davis persisted in his lobbying efforts as Lubbock’s total postal receipts during the previous year exceeded $90,000. As a result, $160,000 to fund construction of a new post office was encumbered in March 1928 from a $250,000,000 appropriation for new federal construction nationwide. Davis also continued pressing for a federal court in Lubbock and was soon rewarded with its authorization. Consequently, a revised appropriation allotted a total of $335,000 for the combined post office and federal building in Lubbock (Chamber of Commerce Records, 1928).

The county deeded the southeast corner of the courthouse square to the federal government for $1.00 in March 1928. A federal site inspector visited Lubbock in August 1928, approving the site on the provision that the existing jail be relocated and that the federal government could acquire the property in fee simple. City officials agreed to facilitate these points and quickly made plans to tear down the old jail. They also instituted a lawsuit to settle title on the land to be deeded to the federal government. By March 1929, a federal court in Fort Worth declared the land free of encumbrances, thereby clearing the path for fee simple purchase (Lubbock Journal, 17 March 1929).

More than a year went by as Lubbock anxiously waited for construction to begin. The onset of the Depression exacerbated this anxiety as difficult economic times befell Lubbock. Contemporaneous telegrams from Lubbock bankers to Washington urged commencement of construction as a means of relieving the serious local unemployment situation (Chamber of Commerce Records, 1930). Passage of the Federal Employment Stabilization Act of 1931 coincided with these efforts. Intended to aid the national economy by addressing the unemployment situation, the act resulted in authorization of emergency appropriations for construction projects. Citing provisions of the Public Buildings Act of 1926, the act increased appropriations and accelerated emergency construction projects (Historic U.S. Post Offices in Washington, E12).

The act apparently facilitated the Lubbock project, as the Supervising Architect of the Treasury suggested in February 1931 that plans were forthcoming. The Treasury Department’s design policies during this period stressed standardization of plans to construct cost-efficient federal buildings. Most contemporaneous examples featured the basic elements of Beaux Arts massing and plan

Beaux Arts style San Fransisco War Memeorial and Opera House 1932

To further reduce costs, designs tended to simplify and stylize ornamentation. This ornamentation generally featured classical motifs, although exterior detailing sometimes reflected regional influences. As the Depression progressed, a policy evolved encouraging the use of local materials and products to stimulate employment (Historic U.S. Post Offices in Washington, E14).

In early March, the Architect of the Treasury released architectural plans and specifications for the Lubbock Post Office and Federal Building, subsequently awarding the contract to the William MacDonald Construction Company of St. Louis. Construction began on 7 May 1931, based on plans specifying red brick exterior finishes (Lubbock Morning Avalanche, 8 May 1931). Opposition quickly arose, however, as the Chamber of Commerce and other civic leaders preferred a light colored stone more consistent with neighboring buildings such as the Lubbock County Courthouse (1916) and the new Lubbock County Jail (1931). Both were sheathed in light colored limestone and buff brick.

Additionally, buff brick predominated as a construction material for buildings at TexasTechnological College at the west end of Broadway,

commercial buildings in the downtown area, and a proposed new high school on 19th Street.

The Texas Cut Stone Company also supported the alternative, assuring Davis that these changes would fall within the parameters of the allotted funds. Once Davis received this news, he immediately began efforts to get the change approved. Telegrams and letters were sent to local representatives in Washington, as well as to James A. Wetmore, the acting Supervising Architect of the Treasury. Congressman Marvin Jones and Senators Sheppard and Connally contacted the Treasury Department as part of this attempt to secure a stone building, but in June the change was deemed unwarranted (Chamber of Commerce Records, 1931).

In response, Davis assembled a small team of influential local leaders to travel to Washington and personally petition for the change to stone. The team consisted of C.E. Maedgen, president of Lubbock National Bank, and John L. Vaughn, the local Postmaster. Davis orchestrated the entire event, including arrangements to cover travel expenses by contributions from the MacDonald Construction Company and the Texas Cut Stone Company. He also alerted Washington officials of the delegation’s arrival by 12 June 1931. A series of meetings with the Post Office Department and the Treasury Department soon led to a compromise involving stone facing for the first floor and light brick on the upper floors, announced 15 June 1931 (Chamber of Commerce Records, 1931).

And in the end –

What do we do with history after it’s been created? Put it away in books, museums, special archives, only to pull it out every 100 years when there’s a celebration? I’ve read of cities that embrace their past and use it to revitalize their downtown areas by encouraging tourist to come explore a place where art and history meet. I am enchanted by this idea and I can visualize this classic building full of wonderful rooms with tall ceilings, flooded with light, converted into small galleries that showcase the unique & talented artists that live on the South Plains.

Construction on the project was completed in the middle of June 1932. In addition to the Post Office and the United States District Court, the earliest occupants included the Department of Internal Revenue, Immigration Service, Army Recruiting Office, and the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Biological Survey. In succeeding years new Depression era agencies such as the Resettlement Administration and the Bureau of Emergency Crop Loans also occupied the building.

During World War II the Coast Guard,

the Marine Corps,

and the Navy opened recruiting offices in the building (Lubbock City Directories, 1933-1944). The presence of so many federal offices clearly indicated Lubbock’s role as the economic and governmental center for the South Plains region.

(And proudly displayed a lot of great art. This poster is from a exhibit at the University of Houston: Let's Go Navy! The Art of the Navy Recruiting Poster Then and Now)

This public building represents the symbolic link between federal government and local citizens. Constructed of materials designed to blend with other public and commercial buildings around the square, the Post Office and Federal Building is now one of the few early 20th century examples remaining intact. In 1950, a new courthouse replaced the 1916 version which subsequently was demolished in the early 1960’s. Similarly styled classical buildings such as First National Bank and the old city hall have also been demolished. Of the historic public buildings in the vicinity of the courthouse square, only the 1931 Art Deco jail survives.

FootNote: The 1931 Jail is set to be demolished as soon as the new jail is completed.

1915 County Courthouse with 1932 Jail in background