James R. Browning Building

By Tyler Velten

Last May, the San Francisco studio took a break from our desks and traveled two blocks north on Seventh Street to visit the James R. Browning United States Court of Appeals Building, headquarters of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Completed in 1905, the design supervised by Treasury architect James Knox Taylor is a singular example of Palazzo style architecture in the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood. Upon completion, the building was considered the most exquisitely detailed building in the West.

Originally three-stories (with an attic), the building accommodated a ground floor Post Office, judicial offices on the second level and grand court rooms on the third floor. A 4th story addition completed in 1933 enclosed the interior courtyard. 

View North on Seventh and Mission Streets. James R. Browning Building complemented by the San Francisco Federal Building (Morphosis, 2005)

Mission Street Elevation featuring white Sierra Granite

Exterior Lantern

Street lamp along Seventh Street

Italian craftsmen were brought to the country to complete the ornate tile and stone work for the building- long considered one of the finest detailed buildings in San Francisco. 


Mosaic Ceiling

Mosaic Floor tile. Architect Julia Morgan oversaw the installation of the floor tiles and utilized the same craftsmen for the tile work at Hearst Castle. 

Original bronze Post Office security screen

Bronze Elevator shaft

Third floor corridor

Judicial Office Chamber

Mosaic Panels, Main Courtroom

Courtroom sound system

Bronze Gate

Plaster moldings with California produce (pomegranates, artichokes, corn, peppers, walnuts etc.)

For anyone interested in Palazzo style architecture, the James R. Browning Building with its exquisite court rooms and ornate halls is a must see when in San Francisco!