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GSA, Sacramento Dispute Whether Moss Building On Capitol Mall Is Historic

John E. Moss Federal Building
John E. Moss Federal Building, Sacramento

Though the the John E. Moss Federal Building at 650 Capitol Mall, vintage 1961, is an example of midcentury modernism, the structure does not meet the standard to be a protected space, according to the General Services Administration. 

Based on both its architecture and history, the city of Sacramento asked the GSA, which owns the building, for acknowledgement of the building’s significance as a step toward submitting it for the National Register of Historic Places, the Sacramento Business Journal reports. In its reply, the GSA said the building had been altered too often for such consideration.

“Most of the original materials and finishes on the facade have been replaced, including replacement of the curtain wall glazing and spandrel panels which also changed their color, and an addition of a new canopy and entry vestibule,” GSA Regional Historic Preservation Officer Jane Lehman wrote in the letter answering the city.

A number of noteworthy Sacramento architects of the time, such as Harry J. Devine Sr., Albert Dreyfuss, Kenneth Rickey and Fred Brooks, had a part in designing the building, according to the city. 

The Moss building also has a history as a federal courthouse from its development until 1999. During that period, such trials as that of would-be presidential assassin Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and the Unabomber were held there.

Sacramento's preservation director, Carson Anderson, said the city’s preservation commission is discussing what to do, considering the reply from GSA. One step would be to submit a letter disagreeing with the notion that the building has changed too much to be historic.

The disagreement will have no immediate impact on the building, since the GSA has no plans to sell, renovate or demolish it. Still, a listing on the National Register of Historic Places could eventually be important in preserving the structure.