The existing downtown building is on the National Register of Historic Places within the downtown Wheeling Historic District. The original 1905 Wheeling Federal Building and Courthouse is a symmetrical design that expresses the solemnity and strength of the federal judiciary, with its classical elements and two-story high Ionic columns. Any addition to this building must be very considerate, in terms of its physical form, to what it is adjoining.
Heery’s design approach was characterized by a courtyard, or atrium, between the existing and new buildings which, among other things, protects the daylight for the newly opened windows in the historic courtroom and provides for daylight in the new one. The design approach also extends the annex to the full length of the block, thus fulfilling the urban design objectives. The design of the new annex moves the main entrance to the new full-block building from the central doorway at the 1905 building to the new atrium and amplifies the scale of the new entrance to match the size of the new building complex. The existing building remains an integral part of the composition of the new full-block building by appropriating a bay for the existing court as part of the composition around the new atrium and entrance. The existing bay, the atrium, and the bay of the annex north of the atrium reinforce the significance of the new entrance and the center of the full block building by reprising the design rhythm of the original 1905 court. The compositional strategy of the design follows the organizing principles of the original building.
The atrium is the symbolic and physical link between the existing and new buildings. Its presence allows the two courtrooms to be illuminated by natural light even though neither has an exterior wall. The north wall for the existing courtroom and the south wall of the new courtroom both have large windows which will receive natural light from the atrium. The atrium organizes circulation to all departments, with the exception of the post office which also has entrances directly from the street. The post office lobby can be closed off from the atrium by a pair of doors. The second floor contains the existing and new U.S. District Courtrooms and judges’ chambers, and one of two floors of the Office of the U.S. Attorney. The thirty-year expansion plan for the Wheeling Federal Courthouse calls for the accommodation of a second U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the building. This court and its associate chambers can be added in a prominent location on the second floor within the original structure. This location is directly beneath the existing Bankruptcy Court, in space vacated by the U.S. District Court Clerk. The location allows for public access of the existing U.S. District Court Lobby and would have windows overlooking the street.
Key components of this design include: