U.S. Court House and Post Office
The building served as the home of the Birmingham Post Office as well as the seat of the United States Circuit Court for the Northern District of Alabama until it was abolished in 1912 and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama before the construction of the Birmingham Post Office and Federal Court on 5th Avenue North in 1921.
The design and construction of the building, which began as early as 1891, were overseen by William A. Freret of New Orleans, who had been appointed Supervising Architect of the United States in 1887. Freret had earlier completed three of the buildings surrounding Woods Quad at the University of Alabama. The design of the courthouse employed the Richardsonian Romanesque style with round-arched windows separated by thick-capped columns. The basement floor featured rusticated stonework while the first floor combined brick with limestone in a pattern of contrasting stripes. The upper floors were comprised mainly of brick with limestone trim at the springlines and for colonnettes. The steep hipped roof of the main building was surmounted by a large square tower with outward-bowed balconies at the belfry and circular clock faces above. Its steep pyramidal roof was crowned with a cross-shaped pinnacle. The 18th Street entrance had its own projecting gable and the rear wing of the building had a shallower hipped roof with a flattened peak.
A one-story brick annex to the building was erected by the Carroll Blake Constructing Company in 1913. Birmingham city building inspector W. O. Mathews denied a permit because the 8-inch wall facing 2nd Avenue did not meet the city's 12-inch requirement. Blake proceeded without a city permit on the grounds that the plans had been approved by the U.S. government, which owned the property. Due to the dispute, the city prevented Blake from obstructing the adjacent street and sidewalk as part of the work. A second dispute arose when it was discovered that the Bell Building encroached on the U.S. government's parcel by 3 inches, but that matter was resolved amicably.
During the 1918 influenza pandemic, a stockpile of more than 1,000 quarts of seized moonshine whiskey stored in the courthouse building was discussed as a potential supply of disinfectant.
The courthouse was torn down in the 1920s to accommodate the expansion of a nearby retail store. That project was never realized and the lot was used in 1970 for a parking deck for Loveman's department store. The deck continues to serve the McWane Science Center.
- "Permit Refused for U.S. Building" (September 21, 1913) Birmingham Age-Herald, p. 5
- White, Marjorie Longenecker (1977) Downtown Birmingham: Architectural and Historical Walking Tour Guide. Birmingham: Birmingham Historical Society.