Construction of this customhouse began in 1852 and was completed in 1859, replacing an 1819 customhouse located at Water and Church Streets (now Waterside Drive and St. Paul's Boulevard). This building was designed by Ammi B. Young (1798-1874), the first supervising architect for the United States Treasury Department, who established high architectural standards for federal buildings. During his career Young designed some 70 government buildings around the country, including the customhouses in Richmond and Petersburg. Departing from his more customary Tuscan designs, Young developed a rich Classical Revival design for this granite structure. Adapting a new material to traditional forms, both the interior columns and the capitals of the exterior columns are made of cast iron. All of the Federal agencies in Norfolk, including courts on the upper floor and the post office in the basement, were housed in this building until space needs prompted the construction of a new Federal courthouse and post office in 1900. The exterior of the building has not been significantly altered since its construction.