The Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Indianapolis is a distinguished example of Beaux Arts architecture. Under the Tarsney Act of 1893, the Treasury Department sought designs for a new federal building from private architectural firms through an open competition. Noted Philadelphia architects John Hall Rankin and Thomas Kellogg secured the design contract, and construction began in 1902.
Completed in 1905, the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse fills a city block bounded by Ohio, Meridian, Pennsylvania and New York Streets. The building is steel-framed and clad with Indiana limestone. In 1938, a five-story addition enclosed the original U-shaped design, creating an interior courtyard. The addition complements the original building and features classical ornamentation mixed with modern details.
The original interior design elements from 1905 remain intact. The building's major interior spaces consist of first-floor lobbies, connecting corridors and original courtrooms at the southeast and southwest corners on the second floor. Among the most impressive interior features are Depression-era murals.
The courtrooms feature marble floors, colored marble and plaster wall finishes with elaborately ornamented, gilded and painted plaster beam and panel ceilings with skylights. Bronzed railings, stained-glass windows and heavy wrought-iron gates provide detail to these rooms, which also have their original furniture. In 1974, the federal building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.