-Start walk-through tour on Dorrance Street-

The suggested starting point for a walk-through tour of City Hall is on Dorrance Street through the grand stairway entrance to the building. Under these stairs were two dark holding cells, used by police forsuspects being detained for questioning. These holding cells can be seen today, one of them is now utilized as a storage room.

From the top of the grand staircase overlooking Kennedy Plaza, many Providence mayors -- and some U.S. Presidents -- have over the years delivered speeches and presided at rallies for the general public.

-Dramatic entrance opens to airy atrium-


Enter City Hall through its twelve-foot-high doors and immediately encounter the main interior staircase, continuing the visual ascent up to the third floor, and even higher to the expansive atrium above. This dramatic entrance provides the visitor with the sense of sweeping grandeur that is a signature characteristic of a Second Empire building.

The wide interior staircase leads from the second floor near the Mayor's Office to a central landing where a large bronze plaque, marking the building's dedication in 1878, overlooks the entire atrium. Commissioners' names are inscribed with those of Mayor Thomas A. Doyle, and the architect, Samuel J. F. Thayer. Also noted on the plaque is the date the cornerstone was laid on June 24, 1875.

Above the plaque is the artwork found in the City Seal, painted tile depicting Roger Williams coming ashore and greeting Wampanoag Indian Chief Metacomet. This landing is also a favored podium location for official events and public addresses.

From this point, the stairway splits in two directions as it reaches the third and other principal floor. The central four-story atrium fills with natural light from rooftop windows above. This magnificent, airy centerpiece reaffirms the belief that Providence City Hall is the finest Second Empire municipal building in the country.


City Hall consists of a basement and five public floors. The first floor was built five feet above street level to protect it from tidal waters. It can be accessed by street-level doors on Washington and Fulton Streets and by a handicap entrance on Eddy Street. These entrances are the most commonly used

When City Hall opened in 1878, the first floor offices were occupied by the Superintendents of Police, Fire, Health, Schools, and Hacks and Lamps, as well as the City Registrar, Board of Public Works,
and the Sealer of Weights and Measures. See the original floor plans in this book.

To find the current locations of offices within City Hall, see Table of Contents page or the directory by the elevators on the ground floor.