Federal Building, Dallas, TX

The Federal Building (formerly known at the Santa Fe Building) is a 402,500 SF Art Deco style structure located at 1114 Commerce Street at the southwest side of the Central Business District of Dallas on a 30,000 square foot site. It is an early skyscraper type structure with a 10 story office base and a 19 story office tower rising on the front, (North), side. This arrangement gives the appearance of a 19 story skyscraper with a 10 story office wing extending to the rear. The tower is unoccupied and is used for storage by the tenant agencies. Floors B through 10 are approximately 20,000 SF each and are occupied by various Government agencies; interiors of floors 11 through 19 of the tower were gutted in 1978 and never built out. These top floors are unoccupied due to egress problems, and are currently used for storage.

Exterior walls are brown brick veneer with cast concrete trim. The building sits on a granite base at the north elevation. The granite base supports heavy concrete-clad columns which divide the window bays at the first floor level. At the north (main) elevation there are five two-story arches accenting recessed windows in the central bays. The remainder of the facade, floors 4 - 15, is divided into slightly recessed bays reflecting the position of the five arches. At each of the east and west sides of the facade is a simple bay of single windows. Floors 16-18 are set back and ornamented by buttresses. The 19th floor is set back farther still. The windows are contemporary bronze anodized aluminum, separated vertically by painted steel spandrel panels. The doors are bronze anodized storefront doors. Only one original steel arched window remains, at the base of the east tower elevation.

The east elevation is adjacent to a closed alleyway/loading area and is virtually obscured by a parking deck structure. The only remaining original window is at the northeast corner of the building at the mezzanine through third floor levels. This window is steel with 16 lights at each level culminating in an arched top. It is surrounded by a cast concrete arch with keystone. An elaborate cast concrete spandrel ornamented by cast concrete urns and swags divides the
window between the mezzanine and second floor levels. Other decorative cast concrete spandrels are below the second floor windows at the extreme northeast corner. It is presumed the original arched windows on the north elevation matched this window since they bear the same arched tops and ornamentation. There is a cast concrete belt course which ornaments the building above the first floor level of the tower elevations. The belt course consists of cast concrete medallions set in a simple course. The medallions, alternating American eagles and heads of the Roman god Mercury, are separated by a lotus motif.

The south elevation, while of the same materials, is secondary, and is simpler in detail. At the first floor level there are three entry doors - one in the center and one at each of the corners (east and west). The doors are ornamented by a brick-framed eye window at the top. The remaining windows bays, two on either side of the center door, culminate in brick arches. The windows at the first through ninth floors are slightly recessed within the brick and are expressed in bays of three windows except where they are single windows over the center, east and west doors. The south elevation of the tower, floors 10-19, is dominated by an arched brick elevator tower in the center. Windows at the east and west are single. Double window bays flanking the elevator tower contain paired windows separated by steel spandrels. The building is slightly set back at the 16th-18th floors and accented by concrete buttresses. The 19th floor is set back even farther.

The west elevation of the building was totally obscured when the Earle Cabell Federal Building was built in 1968. In fact, the Cabell building shares its east wall with the west wall of the Santa Fe Building and there are pass-throughs on the interior at levels 1, 4, 5, and 6. The loading dock for both buildings is in the common area and is accessed from the south.The elevations had been recently restored at the time of inspection.

There are two levels of roof. The roof atop the 10th floor level is built-up roofing with a granular cap heet. This level contains roof-top HVAC units. A decorative copper gambrel roof with copper-clad dormers adorns the top of the building. Both roofs were being replaced at the time of inspection.

The main (north) elevation entry opens into the lobby of the building. The lobby was completely re-built at the time of construction of the Cabell Federal Building (1968) and shares a connecting corridor and the same finishes as the Cabell Building lobby. The remainder of the interior was demolished in 1978; all finishes date from 1978 or later. The occupied floors are finished typically throughout. Floors are vinyl tile at the elevator lobbies and corridors; offices are carpeted. The walls are either painted gypsum board or vinyl covered gypsum panels. The ceilings are dropped acoustical panels with various types of fluorescent light fixtures. There are no decorative, monumental stairs. All stairs are steel-framed concrete. There are six passenger elevators, all contemporary. The space in the tower was left unfinished after the 1978 demolition. There is minimal original material remaining in the elevator lobbies here. Some terrazzo floors within the elevator lobbies and original corridors remain. The marble wainscot at the elevator walls has been covered over with panelling or gypsum board. The tower is used for agency storage on some levels. The brick and terra cotta block walls, and ceilings are exposed, as are the concrete floors. The materials throughout the tower are deteriorated.

The Federal Building at 1114 Commerce Street in the Central Business District of Dallas is significant as a representative of the Art Deco style in the downtown area; and for its contribution to, and continuing presence in, the downtown area. The building was planned and built as the first of a group of four buildings for the Santa Fe Railroad. The site was originally acquired in 1882 (forty years after the founding of Dallas) by the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad Company at a cost of approximately $5000. Shortly after acquisition, a passenger station, freight depot and tracks were built on the site. The area became a focal point of downtown and included a popular restaurant located in the terminal. Due to the growth of the railroad,
and of Dallas, the railroad erected a new freight depot on Young Street and, in January of 1923, the railroad sold the property to the Terminal Building Corporation of Dallas for $700,000. The Terminal Building Corporation was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Atchison System, parent company of the original owner of the property.

The idea for a Santa Fe Building group came from a bank teller-turned-promoter, who persuaded an architect to prepare drawings of his ideas, formed a syndicate of a group of businessmen, and went on to complete four buildings with total area of 14,000,000 square feet. The railroad assisted in the promotion and received 40% of the common stock in the holding corporation. By 1925, the railroad's holding increased to 50% of the common stock and, finally, in 1929 the railroad acquired all of the stock in the Terminal Building Corporation through a payment of $550,000 to the developers.

TX0058DA is building number 1 of the group. It is currently owned by the U.S. Government and is used as a Federal office building. It was designed by Lloyd R. Whitson and F. Cowderoidale, Architects, and was constructed by Watson Company Builders. Then known as the "Santa Fe Building", it was completed in 1925. It was constructed as a combination office and loft building which the planners visualized as similar to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. When the Merchandise Mart concept failed, it became necessary to offer office and warehouse (loft) space in competition with buildings located in more "desirable" areas of the Central Business District. One method of attracting tenants was to cut the price of rental space in the building. Another method was to air-condition the building in 1938. Lining the north/south corridor of the first floor were retail showrooms. Still, the owners had a difficult time maintaining a reasonable occupancy until 1941.

In 1942 during an effort to house the Eighth Service Command, condemnation proceedings were filed in the U.S. District Court and possession of the building passed from the railroad to the U.S. Government for a compensation of $1,200,000. The Army Corp of Engineers assumed occupancy of the building in 1942 and passed it on to GSA in 1948. GSA remains the owner the building.

The entire interior of the building was demolished and modernized in 1978. No original features were left except some elevator finishes in the loft area. The original plaster ceiling in the first floor lobby was obscured by dropped acoustical ceilings. The reconstruction finished the Basement through tenth floors for use as Federal agency office space. The 11th through 19th floors in the loft were left in a "shell" condition and are used as agency storage.

Description Architect
1923 1925 Original construction Whitson and Cowderoidale
1938 Air conditioning added Unknown
1978 1980 Interior demolished and reconstructed Unknown
1979 1980 Space preparation for electrical, doors, telephone Unknown
1980 1982 Replace roof Unknown
1982 1983 Space alterations for IRS, 1st floor Unknown
1983 Prepare space for IRS automated collection system Unknown
1986 1987 Remove and replace all 6 passenger elevators Unknown
1987 1990 Space alteratons for IRS, 9th floor Unknown
1988 1990 Phase 2 space alterations for IRS, 9th floor Unknown
1989 Provide additional computer room for IRS, 6th flr. Unknown
1989 Expand ACS computer room on 5th floor Unknown
1989 Space alterations for IRS, 5th floor Unknown
1989 Provide computer room for IRS Unknown
1989 Provide computer room for IRS Unknown
1989 Provide additional computer room, 6th floor Unknown
1991 Space alterations for Veterans Administration Unknown
1991 1993 Restoration of exterior Unknown
1992 Space alterations for Army CPEO, 2nd floor Unknown
1993 Replace roof Unknown
Last Reviewed: 2017-08-13