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Gallier Hall

Historic Sites, Monuments, Landmarks, and Public Art (National Historic Landmark)

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Though no longer used for its original purpose as city hall, Gallier Hall still plays a prominent role in New Orleans civic and social life. It was built between 1845-1853 and designed by Irishman James Gallier during a period of Greek Revival style in America. Many argue the building stands as Gallier's finest work; it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The building once stood as one of three bodies of government when different races ruled different parts of the city, but as the city grew to become white-dominated, the government consolidated and Gallier Hall became the city's center of government. In 1957, city hall moved to another building, which resulted in the town renaming the building "Gallier Hall," and using it for special events.

Gallier Hall

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Gallier Hall exists as one of the major achievements of architect James Gallier (1798 - 1866) and it resembles a time of Greek Revival in America, It was constructed by builder Robert Seaton between 1845 and 1850 at a time when when dissension had created a tripartite government for New Orleans. As explained in the New Orleans City Guide: 

Ill feeling between the Americans and Creoles was manifested in many ways, more so because the Creoles outnumbered the Americans in the City Council, and as a result received the benefit of Council enactments. This animosity came to a climax in 1835 when a young American was killed in a duel by a Creole. In conformance with the law, the survivor was placed on trial, but was acquitted. The decision was taken by the Americans as an individual insult, and justice was demanded by a mob, which surrounded the judge’s home. The state, taking head of the trouble in the city, withdrew the [city] charger and issued another, with the provision that the city be divided into three separate municipalities….The first municipality embraced the Creole section, the second comprised the American or uptown section, and the third contained the remainder of what is now New Orleans. 1

Gallier Hall served as headquarters for the Second Municipality or American sector, but that only lasted a little more than two years. During the sixteen years of tripartite government, New Orleans grew substantially, became more urban in nature, and transitioned to a largely white society.  Indeed, by 1860, New Orleans was comprised of 85% whites  6% persons of color, and 9% slaves, which is in stark contrast to the early part of the century dominated by incoming slaves, caribbean refugees, and a smaller white populace. Thus, the city's government was reunified in 1852, and the building was officially dedicated as the headquarters for City Hall, on May 10, 1853.2

The official New Orleans website notes:

Several important figures in Louisiana history lay in state in Gallier Hall, including Jefferson Davis and General Beauregard. Of late, it was local legend Ernie K-Doe who was so honored. More than 5,000 mourners came to Gallier Hall on July 14, 2001, to pay their respects to the flamboyant R&B musician, who was laid out in a white costume and a silver crown and scepter and delivered to his final resting place in the company of a big, brassy jazz procession.3

Since the completion of a new City Hall in the 1950s, the building has been used mainly for ceremonial events, exhibitions, and a few municipal offices, and it was renamed Gallier Hall to honor its architect.4

In recent years, the building has suffered from disrepair, notably in 2014 when a section of the exterior fell and subsequently damaged the granite stairs below. The city set aside $10 million for the purposes of renovating the hall. By completion, the hall will included 12 ballrooms and a theater. In addition, 41 pieces of art will be restored by the Helis Foundation, costing upwards of $145,000; it is planned to be finished by fall 2017. 5


Sources

1 Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the City of New Orleans, New Orleans City Guide (1938), 20. 

2 Paul F. Lachance, “The Formation of a Three-Caste Society: Evidence from Wills in Antebellum New Orleans,’ Social Science History 18, no. 2 (1994): 211-42. doi:10.2307/1171266.

3 City of New Orleans, "Historic Gallier Hall," nola.gov, last updated January 11, 2017, http://www.nola.gov/gallier-hall/

4. Ibid.

5 WGNO T.V., "Gallier Hall's Return to Glory: 300 Year Old Building Gets Restored," (2014), wgno.com, accessed January 11, 2017, http://wgno.com/2016/10/18/gallier-halls-return-to-glory-300-year-old-building-gets-restored/

Further Reading:

Goeldner, Paul. "Gallier Hall." National Register of Historic Places. May 30, 1974. https://focus.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NRHP/Text/74002250.pdf.

Address
545 St. Charles
New Orleans, LA 70113
Phone Number
(504) 658-3627
Tags
  • Architecture and Historical Buildings
  • Political and Diplomatic History
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This location was created on 2016-12-19 by Ben M. .   It was last updated on 2017-01-12 by Mathew Powers .

This entry has been viewed 606 times within the past year

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