Richmond County Historical Society
It was “… nothing to write home about,” is how someone in 1935 was quoted in the Richmond County Journal talking about the front facade of the new federal building under construction at the northeast corner of Hancock and Franklin streets in Rockingham.
The new art deco-style building was to house the U.S. Post Office in Rockingham and a federal district court.
Since the 1970s, when ownership was transferred to Richmond County, the building has been home to offices for the county administration.
The 1935 quote concluded, however, that the side view brought together with the bright green grass on the left side “… altogether forms a handsome picture.”
The Journal said, “When finished, the structure will be worthy of the admiration of every citizen despite early forecasts.”
Handsome or not, the former federal building may have become less appealing for modern-day county office operations and cost-efficiency considering recent public comments speculating the need for a possible new location.
A main feature in 1935 for the federal building was that the courtroom would be air conditioned.
What began in 1931 with a federal construction allocation of $115,000 expanded by 1934 in the middle of the Great Depression to $165,000, the Journal said in 1935. Costs mentioned in later book publications ranged from $200,000 to $250,000.
Costs included $700 for 39 electric clocks in 25 offices in the building.
According to the book, “Mixed Blessings”, several Rockingham businessmen lobbied the government for the building. Richmond County native and U.S. Senator Cameron Morrison pushed the project through the Senate Appropriations Committee in 1931.
It was a Works Projects Administration project to create jobs. Symbolic of the WPA involvement is the triptych mural in the lobby entitled “Human Aspects of the Postal Service” by nationally well-known artist Edward Lanning commissioned by WPA for the painting in 1937, according to the “Architectural History of Richmond County.”
By early 1976, architects had completed plans for the new Rockingham Post Office on Caroline Street between West Washington and Franklin streets.
By then the federal court district had been expanded and relocated elsewhere.
When the federal court had opened in Rockingham after the dedication of the building on March 2, 1936, it was said the paneling in the courtroom would make it “one of the most beautiful courtrooms in the country.”
There was also electric-refrigerated ice water for the courtroom.
For the first federal court in the new building held in 1936, 56 jurors were selected from around the district of Richmond, Moore, Hoke and Montgomery counties.
Federal revenue agents were assigned to the district to assist with, among other duties, local law enforcement in arresting bootleggers to be tried in the court during Prohibition.
The three-story orange brick building (which also has a basement) is ornamented by unglazed terra-cotta trim patterned with stylized floral and geometric motifs, according to the ”Architectural History. ”
The front elevation has a portico effect created by two-story-tall entry/window bays with metal paneling and grilles.
On each side of the entrance are large octagonal light sconces with scroll pendants, stiletto caps, and elongated arches containing clear glass, the history said.
The first floor was used by the post office. The courtroom and offices were on the upper two floors.
Photographs (Tom MacCallum’s)
Today’s front view of the Richmond County Administrative Building, 125 South Hancock Street, Rockingham.
The entrance of 125 South Hancock Street, Rockingham, is flanked by two light sconces; metal grills are also features on the entrance facade.
The south view of the building shows the metal paneling and windows features which expand to cover two floors.
The top of the building is ornamented with unglazed terra-cotta trim patterned with stylized floral and geometric motifs.
Steel frames the outline for the new federal court and post office being erected in Rockingham on March 13, 1935. (Photo – Sandra Elliott, RCHS)
Work progresses on April 5, 1935, on the federal building in Rockingham at Franklin and Hancock streets. (Photo – Sandra Elliott, RCHS)
Nearing completion, the federal building is shown on May 7, 1935, which was later dedicated on March 2, 1936. (Photo – Sandra Elliott, RCHS)