About the Charles Evans Whittaker Courthouse

 

Who is Charles Evans Whittaker?

Charles Evans Whittaker is the only Federal Judge from the State of Missouri to become a United States Supreme Court Justice. He served in this capacity from 1957-1962. Justice Whittaker served the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri and then the U.S. Court of Appeals from 1954-1957 when he was confirmed by Congress to the Supreme Court. It is appropriate that the Eighth Circuit's new 21st Century facility be named to honor the history of the Court.

The exhibit area or the "Bell Room" on the 2nd Floor of the Courthouse houses a portrait of Charles Evans Whittaker.

General Building Facts

  • The building is named after the first and only Kansas Citian to be named to the Supreme Court (1957 - 1962).
  • The building is 595,000 square feet.
  • The building took three years to build.
  • The building had a $90 million dollar construction cost.
  • The building is ten stories high.
  • The building is 290 feet above ground.
  • The building has approximately 500 employees.
  • The building design consists of three layers: offices on the north; courtrooms in the center; public lobbies to the south.
  • The building also has three separate circulation systems: one each for judges, public, and prisoners.
  • The building also houses the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Trustee Offices.
  • The stone granite comes from an area outside Stone Mountain, Georgia.
  • The courthouse anchors the north end of the future Illus Davis Civic Mall.
  • The building is organized around a rotunda, which accounts for the structure's unique round design. The rotunda reminds us of our country's great civic structures.
  • Metal grillwork above the main entrance relates to the grillwork on City Hall. The design is an abstract of the building plan. The same type of grillwork can be found throughout the building (i.e., window insets, courtroom doors).
  • The roof is distinctive to emulate the unique roofs of our courthouses of the past.
  • A gas station and printing company used to occupy the site where the courthouse now sits.
  • Only two percent of the entire budget was spent on the massive exterior stone work. The vast majority of the budget was for mechanical, electrical and structural components.
  • Twelve columns that begin in the rotunda extend upward 11 stories through the building and culminate in a circular exterior colonnade above the roof.
  • The cornerstone of the old YMCA building, which President Grover Cleveland dedicated, rests between the two benches on the southeast corner of the site. At this location on October 13, 1887, President Cleveland and his bride Frances Folsom, laid the cornerstone and dedicated a new YMCA building. The cornerstone sits very near its original site.
  • If you put a ten story building next to the ten story courthouse, the courthouse will be taller. The height of the building stories in the courthouse is taller than those in a conventional building because of the high ceilings in the courtrooms.
  • The darker colored stone on the building exterior runs horizontally at the exact height of the cornice line of the historic Kansas City Library. This is an example of how architects create a facility which fits with the surrounding buildings.
  • The entire project was designed and constructed in metric measurement. Architects and craftsmen worked in meters instead of feet and inches.
 
The Lobby

  • The lobby rotunda is three stories high.
  • The rotunda is framed by two massive limestone walls which are angled to "embrace" the new civic mall.
  • The Terrazzo floor pattern in the rotunda reflects the skylight pattern above.
  • The rotunda sculptures were done by Beverly Pepper of New York. The "Sentinels of Justice" sculptures provide visitors with different perspectives as they walk by them and as they look down on them from higher floors.
  • The "PAX" and "LEX" engraved on each side of the main entrance are Latin for "Peace" and "Law," and symbolize the peaceful resolution of legal disputes.
  • The inscription in the rotunda above the security desk is from Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution and selected by local Judges. - The Exhibit Area (Second Floor) The bell in the exhibit area was made in 1883 for Kansas City's first federal building and courthouse at 911 Walnut. It was restored and moved here in late 1996.

The Courtrooms

  • The building has 16 courtrooms for the Court of Appeals, District, Magistrate and Bankruptcy Judges.
  • Most courtrooms are 2,400 square feet, with 19 foot ceilings. The 4 courtrooms on the 8th floor have 42 foot ceilings.
  • The Special Proceedings Courtroom on the 8th floor is 3,000 square feet.
  • The "wedge" shape courtrooms create a more open "well" area. This openness gives multi-defendant trials more working area and provides greater flexibility to use audio-visual technology.
 
Murals


Two major mural paintings, located in the jury assembly reception area on the 2nd floor, were completed in the 1930's under the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). These were found in the attic of the 1849 Jail, Marshal's Home & Museum in Independence, Missouri.

The first, painted by Emanuel Shane in 1934, depicts Kansas City Missouri's river landing area in the 1850's. If the style of this painting looks familiar, it's because Shane was a friend and fellow artist of Thomas Hart Benton. It's said that if you look closely at the hillside on the left, you can actually see J.E. Dunn's courthouse construction trailer.

The second, by Walter Alexander Bailey, was also done in 1934. It's a depiction of the former Watts Mill, which was located on Indian Creek at 103rd and State Line Road. Bailey studied art with Thomas Hart Benton.

Courthouse Tours

To learn more about tours or to schedule a tour, contact Sherry Cleveland via e-mail at sherry_cleveland@mow.uscourts.gov or 816-512-5016.

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