Size: 190,000 SF
Type: Education
Definition: Historical Restoration
Date Completed: 01/04/2010


Owner - Tennessee Board of Regents & University of Memphis, Memphis, TN
Architect/Designer - Askew Nixon Ferguson/Fleming Associates, Memphis, TN
Structural Engineer - Burr & Cole Inc. and Rutherford-Chekenne, Seismic Consulting, Memphis, TN
General Contractor - Bell Construction, CM, Brentwood, TN
Masonry Contractor - Wasco Inc., Nashville, TN
Landscape Architect - Ritchie Smith Associates, Memphis, TN
Other - Office of Griffith C. Burr, Memphis, TN

The limestone, marble and granite historic building on the river-bluffs of Downtown Memphis is a perfect example of adaptive re-use. The building originally built in three phases, had served as Custom House, Court House and Post Office until January 2010 when it opened as the School of Law for the University of Memphis. This 5-year renovation has given new life to the building as a state-of-the-art higher education facility.

The original buildings can be found inside the limestone envelope of the 1930 renovation. The 1884 building is in the center, with 1903 addition on the west side. These buildings were built with load-bearing brick/stone exterior walls, cast iron interior columns, brick-arches and concrete slabs. The 1930 renovation included the Classical Revival façade, both wings, the removal of two clock towers, and a major interior renovation.

The Architect designed the Law School within the 169,000 square foot, 5-story footprint, maintained historic features, and incorporated seismic structure. The program required a library, classrooms, auditorium, Moot Courtroom, Legal Clinic, Administration/Faculty offices and student collaboration and study spaces.

The Architect worked with the Tennessee State Historic Preservation Office to identify elements essential to the building's historic character. This included the façade, the main and elevator/stair lobbies with the Tennessee marble flooring, bases and wainscot; and the Historic Courtroom. The 1884 Courtroom on the third floor was of particular significance. Through extensive repair work the space was brought back to life and is used as both a Moot Court and Courtroom for State and Federal functions.

Attention to the historic details of the building included using energy-efficient accessible storm windows installed on the inside face of the windows to maintain the integrity of the facades. New elements were incorporated using contemporary materials designed to differentiate between old and new. One example of this is the sand-blasted images of the Post Office lock-boxes on the plate glass walls of the Student Lounge.

The design concept for the large classrooms was to remove the "interior" structure of the 1903 addition, leaving only the exterior marble wall and wood windows. Twelve inch thick reinforced Shotcrete seismic shear walls with structural steel sloped floor beams and floors were built for each floor. The shear walls were bonded to the inside face of the masonry walls with stainless steel dowels. Other seismic retrofit items are exterior corner shear walls, limestone parapet and colonnade bracing, steel floor-tie diaphragms, floor to masonry wall connections and stone veneer connection over exit doors. Approximately $5.85 million was included for seismic and structural rehabilitation.

The exterior stone veneer had all mortar joints cut-out and re-pointed with matching mortar. Any cracks in the stone veneer were epoxy grout filled and missing stone pieces replaced. An elastomeric coating was applied to the top surfaces of stone caps, cornices and balustrades. The entire veneer was cleaned with environmentally-safe detergents using low-pressure rinsing in accordance with preservation guidelines.