United States Courthouse – 501 W. Tenth Street

501W Tenth Street [NR/Gov(NR)], United States Courthouse, 1933.  Intended to replace the massive 1896 Victorian post office and federal building that stood on Jennings Ave. at Eleventh St., this building was designed by Paul Philippe Cret, a nationally renowned architect from Philadelphia, in association with local architect Wiley G. Clarkson. Constructed in 1933 by James I. Barnes Construction Co. of Springfield, Ohio, the building project was also significant in that it provided jobs for Fort Worth’s Depression-plagued economy.

The building is a sophisticated composition combining both classical Beaux Arts and Moderne elements.  Five stories high, the stone building has a series of black and polished aluminum window panels decorated with American Indian motifs.  The elaborate main entrance is also rich in Moderne detailing including arrows, lotus plant forms, and ziggurat shapes on the door surrounds and large freestanding lamps that flank the doors.  Moderne decorative motifs inside the building complement the exterior design but unfortunately some areas, including the original public lobby which served as a branch post office, have been altered.  The fourth-floor U.S. Court of Appeals courtroom contains two paintings, the “Taking of Sam Bass” and “Texas Rangers in Camp” executed by Frank Mechau (1904-46) in 1940.  They were commissioned as part of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts program which operated between 1934 and 1944 to provide works of art for public buildings.  The murals are the only example of a Depression-era public art project in Fort Worth.  The United States Courthouse is an important contributor to the Burnett Park streetscape.  It appears to be individually eligible for the National Register for its architectural qualities and is a contributor to the proposed Downtown Governmental Buildings National Register Thematic Group.

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