New York City's City Hall houses the city’s government offices, such as the Mayor of New York City and the chambers of the 51 New York City Council members. It is the oldest city hall in the nation that still serves its original purpose, and is considered one of the finest architectural achievements of its period. Tours are offered to the public; however, they must be scheduled in advanced. It is located at the center of City Hall Park between Broadway, Park Row, and Chambers Street.
Before there was the City
Hall we see today, the work of the government of New York City was done in the
original city hall. Built in 1700, it was located at the corner of Wall Street
and Nassau Street. It was determined that the building needed to be replaced,
and a competition was held to select an architect to design the new City Hall. In
1802, the designs of John McComb, a native New Yorker, and Joseph Francois
Mangin, a French émigré, won the competition. Work began immediately.
Construction took nine years, beginning in 1803 and continuing into 1812.
However, it took several more years until the building was ready to be inhabited.
By blending the international flavor of both men's influences, the interior can
be described as American Georgian while the exterior is French
Renaissance. The new City
Hall is three stories high with a central pavilion that is flanked by two
projecting wings with large arched windows, delicate ornamental swags, and
decorative Corinthian and Iconic style columnns and pilasters. You enter City
Hall by ascending a large stone stairway leading to the main entrance that has
been the scene of many important events throughout the last two centuries. Upon
entering City Hall, a grand marble staircase sweeps up to the
one-story portico fronting the building. The roof of the portico is capped by
a balustrade, forming a balcony outside the Governor’s Room where
five large arched windows soar to impressive heights. The rotunda
dominates the interior and is dramatically encircled by a keystone-cantilevered
staircase. Ten columnns on the second floor support the coffered dome that is
modeled after the one in the Pantheon in Rome. A
cupola rises above the attic where a copper statue of Justice majestically watches
over the city below.
City Hall's most notable room, the
Governor's Room, has served as a museum and reception room. It houses one of the most important collections of 19th
century American portraiture as well as a collection of historic
furnishings, including George Washington's desk and pieces by Charles Christian
and Honoré Lannuier. Many distinguished guests have visited City Hall,
including the Marquis de Lafayette, Albert Einstein, President James
Monroe, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln whose body
lay in state there for two days. Over the years, it has been refurbished and
restored many times including a redecoration by Bernstein and Bernstein from
1905 to 1907.