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Historic Federal Courthouses
This site created by the Federal Judicial Center presents over 700 listings of federal courthouses and other federally owned buildings that have served as the meeting places of federal courts. Images of these buildings, mainly compiled from the collections of various federal repositories and agencies, are included wherever possible. The site, which previously listed courthouses only up to the 1960s, was updated in January 2019 to include all known federally owned buildings used by Article III courts. Images of the newer courthouses will be added on an ongoing basis.
Each entry lists the date of the building’s completion in parentheses following the city and state; the name of the building, if it was named after a person; in the case of commissioned designs, the private architect; the dates that the building served as a meeting place for various federal courts; the dates extensions were built or the building was razed, where applicable; and citations indicating the source and date of each image. In addition to the thumbnail and larger images, high-resolution files are provided for print use.
Note: Any use of these images should credit the original source, indicated in the citation beneath it, not the Federal Judicial Center. The Federal Judicial Center does not maintain a collection of original courthouse photographs.
The largest group of photographs is from Record Group 121 at the National Archives, the records of the Public Building Service and its predecessor agencies. Most of the images drawn from RG 121 were collected by the Office of the Supervising Architect in the Department of the Treasury, which was responsible for the construction of most civilian federal buildings until 1939. The images from RG 121 are largely a photographic record of completed federal construction projects, but the records include some photographs of the construction and alteration of these buildings. The selected images show the best available views of finished buildings, as well as extensions that significantly alter the look or footprint of the original structure. In 1901, the Office of the Supervising Architect compiled a book of photos and text, A History of Public Buildings, describing all the public buildings under the control of the Treasury Department. Some of the photographs that were not available in other locations are included here.
Other images in this site are from the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), a project of the National Park Service available through the Library of Congress, and the Annual Report of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department (1869-1920). The General Services Administration provided additional images and information for historic buildings under their care, as well as images of current courthouses. The National Register of Historic Places, which is administered by the National Park Service, provided further information and images not found at other repositories.
 Until 2018, each listing included the Supervising Architect at the time the building was constructed. The Office of the Supervising Architect was an agency within the Treasury Department responsible for designing federal buildings between 1852 and 1939. The Supervising Architect, responsible for leading a large government agency, was not personally involved with every federal construction project (and in one case was a lawyer rather than a professional architect). To avoid confusion, the Supervising Architects are now listed here rather than in the individual entries: Robert Mills (Federal Architect, 1836-1842); Ammi B. Young (Architectural Advisor, 1842-1852; first Supervising Architect, 1852-1862); Isaiah Rogers (1863-1865); Alfred B. Mullett (1865-1874); William Appleton Potter (1874-1877); James G. Hill (1877-1883); Mifflin E. Bell (1883-1886); William A. Freret (1887-1888); James H. Windrim (1889-1890); Willoughby J. Edbrooke (1891-1892); Jeremiah O’Rourke (1893-1894); William Martin Aiken (1895-1896); James Knox Taylor (1897-1912); Oscar Wenderoth (1913-1914); James A. Wetmore (Acting Supervising Architect, 1915-1933); Louis A. Simon (1933-1939). For further reading, see Antoinette J. Lee, Architects to the Nation: The Rise and Decline of the Supervising Architect’s Office (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).