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Visiting the Old Federal Building, Sault-Ste-Marie, Michigan: After a Design by James Knox Taylor, Built 1909/10

Updated on January 14, 2018
State flag of Michigan
State flag of Michigan | Source
Old Federal Building, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA.
Old Federal Building, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA. | Source

Elegant civic sentinel overlooking the St Mary River

The striking Old Federal Building at Sault-Ste-Marie, Michigan dates from 1909/10. It was built following a design by James Knox Taylor (1857-1929), who was well known for having been Supervising Architect of the US Department of the Treasury during a 15 year period of significant expansion (1).

The Old Federal Building is executed in Indiana limestone, built on a granite foundation. Widely described as being in Renaissance Revival style, I would add the observation that in some other parts of the world a similar building might also be described as having Neo-Classical and Beaux-Arts elements. I myself am very much reminded of the US Post Office building in NIagara Falls, New York, also built to a design by James Knox Taylor.

I have also supplied a photo, below, which shows the Old Federal Building overlooking the St Mary River, through which the US-Canada border runs.

The Old Federal Building has variously served as a US Post Office, Court House, museum and City Hall.

It is included in the US National Register of Historic Places and is a Michigan State Historic Site.

The site of the Old Federal Building formerly held what was known as Fort Brady, established in 1822 under Colonel Hugh Brady, but later, under the direction of General Philip Sheridan, was rebuilt at another site at Sault-Ste-Marie, which eventually formed the nucleus of what is now Lake Superior State University (2).

Interestingly, Sault-Ste-Marie, Michigan is the oldest permanent European settlement in the state, dating from the 17th century, when French clergy established a religious site at a much older Native American settlement.

The Old Federal Building is situated at 209 East Portage Avenue, Sault Ste. Marie, in Michigan's Chippewa County.

March 16, 2017


(1) James Knox Taylor was also business partner to Cass Gilbert (famous for the Woolworth Building, New York City, the US Supreme Court, Washington, DC, and many other memorable structures).

(2) A well established centre of learning, Lake Superior State University is noted among its specialisms for studies in fisheries and aquatic ecology, and sponsors a distinguished Aquatic Research Laboratory (see also:; the University also has a strong sports tradition, especially hockey; A significant proportion of Canadian students traditionally study at the University.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, United States
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, United States | Source

Also worth seeing

In Sault-Ste-Marie, Michigan itself, the River of History Museum is at 531 Ashmun Street; there is a number of notable examples of church architecture; the Chippewa County Courthouse is a striking, domed building; the Soo Locks, which enable shipping to pass between Lakes Superior and Huron, are a US National Historic Landmark.


How to get there: SkyWest/ Delta Connection flies from Chippewa County International Airport, near Sault-Ste-Marie, Michigan, to Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport, with wide North American connections. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Given the proximity of the US-Canada border, international travellers should refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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