In early 1927 the plans for a Federal Building to provide a site for Federal Court in this district were drawn---or were they borrowed? It is difficult to imagine why a building with such strong Spanish design would be built in Marianna, where a typical Southern setting was so obvious. In the mid 1920’s, there were approximately twenty beautiful Southern homes, several dating back to the 1840’s, along Lafayette Street in the three or four blocks west of the Lafayette and Caledonia Street site. This did not include the large number of the same style homes on Madison, Green, and Clinton Streets and others, scattered throughout the residential areas. With the typical Southern courthouse in the center of town, what would lead any committee to decide on an extremely Spanish design for the new building? Over the years, many locals have speculated that perhaps there is (or was) another Federal Building located in a Spanish heritage city somewhere in America that looks exactly like this one. Were they building an especially beautiful Spanish Revival Building in Marianna, or were they building a beautiful Spanish style building built previously? We will never know!
At any rate, during the summer of 1927, the digging of the basement was begun. Our first photo taken by the contractor, Charles Weitz Sons, is dated August 8, 1927. All photos included in this series of articles were taken by the contractor and dated as proof of his progress. Today they hang in the Post Master’s office. They were loaned to the Chipola Historical Trust in 2007 to copy for their archives.
In the photo, the digging of the basement appears to have been completed, with forms extending from the foundation prepared for the next phase, which would be the walls for the other half of the basement. (You will note when you look at the current building the below ground level portion of the basement is approximately one-half the height of the finished product. The remainder of the basement height is above ground. Thus we have the series of steps going up to what would normally be “the ground floor”.) This photo would have been taken from the upper floor of the Dekle Building across Lafayette Street to have achieved the angle looking down into the basement. The work shed is located along Lafayette Street in front of the building.
The Methodist Church, completed in 1916, can be seen to the north of the building on the north corner of the block at the Caledonia and Clinton Street intersection. PHOTO NUMBER 1
The next photo, taken on September 1st, shows the basement is enclosed. The main floor’s concrete floor is being reinforced with wire, preparing to pour the floor. All plumbing and wiring to be located under the floor appears to be completed. This photograph was taken from the eastern side of the building on Caledonia Street. There was a two-story house across the street which would allow this angle to have been photographed. The service station on the left is facing Lafayette Street and is immediately west of the M. L. Dekle Building. The large frame home in this photo would be sitting where the parking lot, now owned by the Methodist Church and leased to the Post Office, is located today.
At the end of the month, on September 30th, this photograph was taken. The window frames are leaning on the left side of the building, ready to be put in place. This photo is taken from the back of the building, looking south.
We can see the new Chipola Hotel, which has just been completed. There is landscaping, and cars are parked out front. Lafayette Street has been paved and the “Plaza” area has been established and curbed.
There is a large pile of brick on the right side of the photograph, waiting to be used in the next phase of the building. There is also an open work shed on this side of the building and a picket fence running along the north side of the Federal property.
The lot north of the fence where the Post Office parking/loading area and the Methodist Sunday School Building is today appears to be an unkempt vacant lot.
If it seems to you that the building is going up rapidly, that appears to be correct! This photo was taken October 31st. The first floor exterior has virtually been completed and the windows and doors have been put in place. The brick have been used over the entire exterior of the building, and some work is obvious on the upper floor, which appears to be the exhaust or chimney for the heating system, located in the basement. Looking carefully on the right side of the building, you will notice that they are still laying brick in the area of what is now the Post Master’s office. This is the same work shed as seen in the first photo, located on Lafayette Street.