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United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, James R. Browning United States Courthouse, San Francisco, California | by Ken Lund
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United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, James R. Browning United States Courthouse, San Francisco, California

James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building houses the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Court business brought me to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.It is one of the finest interiors in the United States. It is a shame the U.S. Marshals would not allow me to take photos inside the building. It's a misguided policy crafted by those who make rules for rules' sake. There is no compelling national security interest protected by precluding the public from being able to photograph this national treasure.


The James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building is a historic post office and courthouse building located at San Francisco in San Francisco County, California. It is a courthouse for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Completed in 1905 as the U.S. Courthouse and Post Office, it was intended to represent the affluence and increasing importance of the United States as it became a world power. The building survived both the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.


The building reflects the Beaux Arts classicism adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department for early twentieth-century federal buildings. The stylized building is a steel-framed structure clad in white Sierra granite. The magnificent building, with its opulent ornamentation and surface treatments, was exceptionally lavish even at the time of its construction.


The imposing building, echoing the Italian palazzos designed by Bramante and Raphael during the Renaissance, is ornamented with enclosed pediments, balustrades, and rows of arched windows. The beautiful bronze entry lanterns are replicas of the torch-holders designed in 1489 by Niccolo Grosso for the home of Filippo Strozzi, the richest banker in Florence.


Although the building's exterior is impressive in the quality of detail, ornamentation, and material, the elegant interiors are even more exquisite. The post office originally occupied the ground floor with a lobby running the width of the Seventh Street (main) facade. The second floor had offices for court staff and federal agencies, while the third floor contained the ornate courtrooms, judicial chambers, and conference rooms.


The Great Hall, located on the third floor, is adorned with white marble walls, Doric order columns, and a vaulted ceiling beautifully ribbed with gold trimmed plaster ornamentation. This hall leads to Courtroom One, the most elaborate interior space in the building. Originally designed for the U.S. District Court, Courtroom One features Marble mosaics, columns with carved Corinthian capitals, carved fruit motifs, cast-plaster cupids and flowers, and stained-glass windows. In contrast to the opulence of the Beaux Arts designed spaces, the two courtrooms on the second floor of the 1933-1934 addition are designed in the sleek Art Modern style. Detailing in these spaces include the labyrinth-patterned ceiling, cork walls, and gilded plaster eagles.

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Taken on November 7, 2013