AKA: United States Government, Postal Service (USPS), Post Office and Courthouse #1, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA; Federal Building and Post Office, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - courthouses; built works - public buildings - post offices

Designers: Underwood, Gilbert Stanley, Architect (firm); United States Government, Department of the Treasury, Office of the Supervising Architect, Simon, Louis A. (firm); Louis Adolphe Simon (architect); Gilbert Stanley Underwood (architect)

Dates: constructed 1937-1940

17 stories

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312 North Spring Street.
Civic Center, Los Angeles, CA 90012-4701

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It occupied the northeast corner of South Spring Street and West Temple Streets.


Los Angeles grew very rapidly between the 1890 and 1940, and the federal government completed three buildings in 1892, 1910 and 1940 to serve the surging metropolis. This skyscraper, an amalgam of Modernism and Neo-Classicism, was originally designed to stand 15 stories tall, but three stories were added before construction completely finished in 1940. It superceded the second combined Federal Courthouse, Office Building #2, and post office (1910) that stood here for about 27 years. Its architects aligned the courthouse on axis with the existing Los Angeles City Hall #3, suggesting the continuity in law between the federal and local governments.

Building History

This was the third major federal building constructed in Los Angeles, CA.Built at the end of the Depression, the construction of this huge federal building brought jobs for thousands of idled workers. It originally accommodated the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, but California's Federal court jurisdictions were reset in 1966; since then, it has served the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Another court operation has been housed in the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and US Courthouse at 255 East Temple Street in Los Angeles.

Two architects collaborated on the design of this hybrid Modern/Neo-Classical building, a synthetic style often called "WPA Moderne," Louis A. Simon (1867-1958), Supervising Architect of the United States, Department of the Treasury, Washington, D.C., and Gilbert Stanley Underwood (1890-1960), the consulting architect. Underwood worked in the Federal Architects Project, Washington, DC, 1932-c. 1940 and also became the Supervising Architect of the United States, Department of the Treasury, Washington, D.C., 1947-1949.

The first fifteen stories of this building were done by 01/1939, but the government required more space by this time, and two more floors and a penthouse were appended to the top during the 11-month period between 04/1939 and 03/1940. Originally, the US Postal Service (USPS) operated the city's main post office on the ground and first floors. This arrangement lasted from 1940 until 1965, when the USPS moved out to a new facility.

By the 1990s, this building was viewed by judges working there as outmoded, and they lobbied legislators for nearly two decades for a new courthouse to replace it. A Los Angeles Times article of 2013, that described the groundbreaking of a new courthouse designed to replace this one, said, "That building, built in 1938, is beset by overcrowding and security challenges in transportation of prisoners, the General Services Administration said." (See Matt Reynolds,Los Angeles Times.com, "Work Begins on new L.A. Federal Courthouse," published 08/12/2013, accessed 05/09/2017.)

Building Notes

EIght courtrooms, each of varying width and lengths, but all three stories high, were situated on the second floor.

National Register ID Number:06000001; GSA Building Number: CA0041ZZ.

National Register of Historic Places: 06000001 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 3860