New York City Hall

The Foreign Influences in the Design of City Hall

The French influence at City Hall was introduced by Jean Françoise Mangin who was a French émigré at the time when the two architects entered the competition for the best design of City Hall. The large arched windows, the delicate ornamental swags and the sweeping staircase with its filigree balustrade bring to mind French architecture of the 18th century.

As one enters the building, one is immediately confronted by a grand entrance hall with the beautiful keystone-cantilevered floating curved staircase rising to the second floor from either side of the lobby.

 

However, the ten Corinthian columns on the second floor which support a coffered dome, crowned with an oculus, were modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. The soaring rotunda dominates the interior and is decorated with golden rosettes. There is a certain grandeur to the design as one looks up to the glass window at the top of the dome, through which daylight streams into the building during daytime hours.

The History of City Hall

The history of City Hall is also impressive. When it was built, it was the third City Hall founded in the city. The first was built by the Dutch when the city was still known as New Amsterdam and was called the Stadt Huys. The second was the building on Wall Street at the corner of Broad Street which is now known as the Federal Building.

When the current City Hall was built it was located at the edge of the city, with trees and pastures to the north. The original design called for marble covering the entire outside of the façade. However, the design was deemed to be too expensive and the architects had to cut costs. So they agreed that only the front of the building would be covered with marble.

Over the years the original marble was replaced with limestone and granite. However, the marble floor inside the vestibule remains. The old marble can also be seen at the edges of the steps, but the area where people walk has also been replaced. The fresh marble is whiter in contrast with the original material.

The Statues of City Hall

Facing City Hall is a statue of Nathan Hale, hero of the Revolutionary War. The bronze figure which stands 13 feet high was sculpted by Frederick MacMonnies (1863-1937). It rests on a granite base and depicts Hale’s last pre-dawn moments as he was led shackled and bound to the gallows.

Inside the building is a bronze replica of a George Washington monument. It is a cast made from a marble statue by Jean-Antoine Houdon, carved in 1790. It represents Washington in civilian clothes, after he had resigned his military commission and was about to become a gentleman farmer. As history had it, he was called once more to serve as first President of the United States, so he never really pursued the farming career.

This monument is one of six copies of the statue. Another one stands in the United States Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C.

At the top of City Hall, above the clock tower stands a copper statue of justice by the sculptor John Dixey. What is unusual about this portrayal of Justice is that she is not wearing a blindfold.

City Hall is a National Historic Landmark and is located between Broadway, Park Row and Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan. Security around City Hall is tight. In order to see the interior of the City Hall historic building, one needs to book an appointment online. One can also book a tour by calling 313 or 212-New-York from outside the city.