Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
Ownership and Administration. City of New York.
Significance. This hall, a living museum of New York and U.S. history and one of the most important civil buildings in the Nation, uniquely blends architectural beauty and historical significance. In front of the hall, for more than a century and a half, have passed in review the country's victorious armiesfrom the War of 1812 to the Korean conflict; the great of this and other nationsLafayette and Lindbergh, Garibaldi and Eisenhower, MacArthur and Glenn. In front of it have also trudged the humble and the unknown, immigrants, and westward-bound emigrants. The hall reveals much of civic administration and life in the original Capital of our Nation under the Constitution and in one of its first metropolises, trading centers, and seaports. It also memorializes many influential shapers of the U.S. political tradition.
The present hall is actually the third New York city hall; the first was the old Dutch Stadt Huys, 73 Pearl Street, and the second was on the site of the present Federal Hall National Memorial. On the third and present site, the old Common, had been located a Liberty Pole, erected in 1765 to celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act and later razed by the British; the present Liberty Pole, west of the City Hall, was erected on Flag Day 1921. The architect and the city fathers chose the location because they agreed that the city would never extend much farther north and that its life would be centered between the Common and the Battery. In 1803 the cornerstone was laid, and in August 1811 the city government first occupied the building, though it was not fully completed until the following year. The architecture is essentially the work of Joseph F. Mangin, a Frenchman, but his partner and cowinner of a competition for the commission, John McComb, a Scotsman, directly supervised the construction and received most of the contemporary credit.
De Witt Clinton, who fostered the building of the Erie Canal, was the first mayor to serve in the hall. In 1824 General Lafayette and his son arrived in New York City aboard the Cadmus. A naval procession escorted him to Castle Garden, where he reviewed the troops, after which a horse-drawn barouche transported him to City Hall. There, officials welcomed him to the city. In 1825 the building was the scene of a celebration marking the opening of the Erie Canal. In 1858, after a fireworks display in honor of the newly laid Atlantic cable, the hall caught fire and was partially destroyed. Architects followed the design of the 1830 alteration of the cupola during the hall's rebuilding. In 1917, however, when the cupola burned again, its reconstruction was identical to the original McComb design. In 1954-56 the city completely restored the hail.
Present Appearance. City Hall, built of marble and brownstone, is a blending of Renaissance and American Colonial architectural styles. It contains the offices of the mayor and other municipal officials. In the Governor's Room, which serves as a museum, is displayed a mahogany table used by George Washington during his Presidency and armchairs used at Federal Hall by members of the first U.S. Senate. Leading figures of U.S. history having associations with New York City are honored in sculpture and paintings throughout the building. It is open to the public.
NHL Designation: 12/19/60
Last Updated: 29-Aug-2005