The Design Competition

The architectural design of City Hall was crafted by Samuel J. F. Thayer, (Aug. 20, 1842- Mar. 1, 1893) a native of Boston. Providence City Hall was one of his first successes which led to other public commissions: the town halls in Brookline and Stoughton, Massachusetts, as well as the Nevins Memorial in Methuen, Massachusetts.

His plan was chosen from four finalists out of a total of 21 entries, each given a name such as "Fait," "Maltese Cross," and "Blue Wafer" to avoid any favoritism through identification with the architect.

Thayer's "Blue Wafer" plan was selected, and he was awarded $1,000. He described his design as "renaissance, of the character widely adopted for civic buildings in the most advanced cities of the world."

His plan proposed a tall, cathedral-like tower (see rendering in Archives) and floor dimensions deemed too large and costly by the committee. Consequently, the plan was modified, and the tower replaced with a modest mansard roof to meet the budget. The revised cost estimated by Thayer was just under the $635,000 that the Council was prepared to spend. Eventually, the cost of City Hall exceeded even this budget, totaling over one million dollars.