- Associated Press - Monday, November 13, 2017

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - One of Lawton’s most tenacious survivors was celebrated this week when the Federal Building marks its 100th anniversary of service in the federal court system.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, based in Oklahoma City, marked the anniversary with a special session of court. The event was open to the public, but participants should expect to undergo a thorough search, just as on any other day. Recording devices are usually not allowed in the building at all, but an exception was made for cellphones, a court spokesman said.

The Federal Building is one of the few early-day downtown buildings that survived urban renewal and other more recent threats, although both its architecture and functions have changed through the years.

Like many early federal buildings in Oklahoma, the federal courthouse here was originally a combined post office and federal court building. The three-story structure, built in the Classical Revival style, was constructed in 1915-17 after numerous delays, according to Constance Martinez, who researched the history of the building for its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

The Lawton Constitution reports that Oklahoma’s congressional delegation sought federal funding for 14 post office-court houses in 1908, Martinez wrote, but plans for the Lawton building stalled, partly because of a heavy backlog of federal projects. Finally, work began in June 1915 and the post office which had moved in 1912 to the Masonic Lodge from a wood frame building was able to move into its quarters in March 1917.

“Constructed at a cost of approximately $130,000, the building was viewed as ‘one of the best, most complete and most up-to-date government building that is to be found in this part of the country outside of Oklahoma City.’ Using ‘the best materials,’ the building was further proclaimed to be ‘by far the finest and best looking structure of which the city can boast,’” Martinez wrote, quoting newspaper reports.

The post office remained on the first floor of the courthouse until it moved to what is now the Municipal Court building in the 1960s. Other government agencies used the space formerly occupied by the post office until more stringent security measures were installed in the aftermath of 9/11. Now the building houses the court, the court clerk’s office, the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, federal Probation and Pretrial Services, and the Department of Labor.

Although the courthouse has been changed throughout the years, including adding an external fire escape and a loading dock for the post office, it still retains the atmosphere of a century-old building. Much of the floor tile is original, as are the chandeliers and wall sconces (although they’ve been converted to electricity from gas) in the courtroom.

The building has survived a lot of change, internally and externally. It’s one of the few historic downtown buildings to survive urban renewal, and not too many years ago it was on a list of courthouses considered for closure.

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Information from: The Lawton Constitution, http://www.swoknews.com

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