Old City Hall
2012 photo of Old City Hall, Lincoln, Nebraska, as seen from Tenth Street (Ammodramus)
Old City Hall ("P.O." in blue = stone) on 1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Lincoln (Sanborn Map Co., p. 7)
Old City Hall (P.O. in blue), fountain (blue), & bandstand (yellow) on 1891 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Lincoln (Sanborn Map. Co. p. 21)
Backstory and Context
The block where the Old City Hall building was constructed in the 1870s was intended as a market square for the city. The four-story brick building is faced with rough-faced Nebraska limestone with contrasting smooth stone arches and stringcourses. The design combines elements of Gothic Revival and French Second Empire architectural styles. The original architect, Alfred B. Mullet, also designed the Executive Office Building neighboring the White House in D.C. The later architect on the project, William A. Potter, is thought to be the one who contributed the Gothic styling.
The building originally housed a U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, plus a U.S. Land Office, where millions of acres of land were claimed under the Homestead Act. The building was the lone structure on its town map square in the mid-1880s (see the clip of the 1884 Sanborn map), with an artesian well in the rear yard, producing salt water. By the early 1890s, the well was mapped as a stone fountain; a wooden bandstand had been added to the north side of the block, along P Street (see the 1891 Sanborn map clip).
When a new building was completed nearby in 1906, the post office and court moved to the new structure. The city bought this building from the federal government for $50,000 and established City Hall offices. A clause in the transfer states that the building would go back to the federal government if it was no longer being used by the city.
The Old City Hall building served as Lincoln's city hall until 1969, when a newer building became available. The Lincoln/Lancaster County Historical Society worked to have Old City Hall preserved. The Old City Hall building was one of the first listings in the National Register of Historic Places from Lincoln, in 1969. The building was renovated and has been used since as spaces for city agencies and community agencies. The interior had already undergone many alterations since the building opened, but the original cast iron stairways and some of the Gothic-style woodwork remained. Very little had been changed on the building's exterior, except changing some doorways into windows, with compatible materials, and the removal of some iron cresting and some stone cornice brackets.
Current tenants include Lancaster County Property Management, Nebraska Folklife Network, Inc., and the Lincoln Arts Council.
3RiverDev. U.S. Post Office and Courthouse (Old City Hall), Historical Marker Project. October 16th 2014. Accessed March 8th 2020. https://historicalmarkerproject.com/markers/HM19IW_u-s-post-office-and-courthouse-old-city-hall_Lincoln-NE.html.
Magie, John Q. NRHP Nomination Form for City Hall, aka U.S. Post Office and Courthouse. National Register. Washington, DC. National Park Service, 1969.
Sanborn Map Company. Sanborn fire Insurance Map of Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska. 1884, 1891.