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Ninth Circuit Courthouse Named National Historic Landmark

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals usually makes headlines for the cases that are decided inside the walls of the Beaux Arts building on Mission Street in San Francisco. Now, the building itself is making headlines.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar declared the James R. Browning United States Courthouse a national historic landmark last week, describing it as a "superlative Beaux-Arts public building exhibiting a complex merger of a number of artistic disciplines: architecture, sculpture, painting, stained-glass and decorative arts," SFAppeal reports.

The Ninth Circuit’s ascent to historical greatness has been long coming. The courthouse joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

In 2004, Congress renamed the building for the late chief judge emeritus, James Browning, who served on the appellate court from 1961 until 2000, Courthouse News reports.

The building endured a lot in the last century, including fire damage from the 1906 earthquake, and additional structural damage from the 1989 earthquake. Though the building was closed after the later quake, it reopened in 1996 after a $91 million facelift, (including repairs, restoration, and seismic improvements).

Inside the 107-year-old structure, the courtroom drama could easily rival primetime television. The treason trial of a World War II radio announcer known as “Tokyo Rose” occurred inside the building while it also housing the district court for the Northern District of California, according to SFAppeal. In more recent years, the building has hosted appeals about the Napster music file-sharing program, California’s Proposition 209 ban on state affirmative action, and the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

The national historic landmark designation is reserved for buildings of exceptional historical value or quality. There are now 2,527 buildings across the country which have received the designation.

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