Built of Kentucky and Indiana limestone in 1887, the Old Federal building in the Second Empire style served first as the federal courthouse, then as a post office, and most recently as the Paul Sawyier Public Library.
The harbor master was located on the top floor because of the excellent view of the Kentucky River.
When the public library moved into its new facility, The City of Frankfort offered Kentucky State University an opportunity to purchase the building on very favorable terms, and in 2009, KSU was awarded a one-million-dollar historic preservation grant to renovate the building to serve as a downtown campus.
KSU plans to preserve the unique features of the building, such as the cupola, and to restore as much of the original interior finish of the building as possible while creating classroom spaces and housing the archives collection of the Center of Excellence for the Study of Kentucky African Americans.
In addition, KSU intends to create a discovery center for school children and tourists in connection with its floating science lab, a pontoon boat that cruises the Kentucky River to teach students about the riverfront and water ecology.