Preservation efforts save City Hall


In the 1960s and early 70s, the future of a somewhat dilapidated City Hall was in peril. Demolishing the landmark building and replacing it with a new City Hall was seriously considered, as was the demolition of a number of other historic buildings in the downtown. Preservationists were concerned.

Winter on Exchange Place, c. 1913 - City Hall not yet remodeled, Civil War Statue moved to present location, Butler Exchange Building still standing, comfort station in building stages, horse and carriages share the streets with electric trolleys.

Soon after Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. took office for his first term in 1975, he met with historian and preservationist, Antoinette Downing. Also present was the mayor's former art history teacher from Moses Brown School, Eleanore Monahon. The women expressed their concern about the possible loss of City Hall and appealed to the Mayor to halt the proposed demolition.


Together, Mayor Cianci, Downing, and Monahon decided the best course of action to preserve City Hall was to list the building on the National Register of Historic Places. Following approval for listing, renovations restored City Hall to its near original form, as you see it today. The restoration project ran from 1975 into the early 1990s. The Aldermen's Chamber, City Council Chambers, and Mayor's Office were restored by artist Bob Dodge, a graduate of RISD who stripped and re-painted these rooms entirely. Irving B. Haynes & Associates was the architectural firm selected to oversee the project.

"It's beyond me why anyone would demolish this beautiful building," Mayor Cianci said. "We are proud of our effort, and fortunate to have City Hall today. It is truly the city's architectural centerpiece." City Hall is one of only three Second Empire City Halls in America still in use as a City Hall.

Before the hurricane barrier and early-warning weather systems, the Hurricane of 1938 brought flood waters into the downtown stranding City Hall workers.