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Providence City Hall Construction Records
1874-1879
RG 211


During the period from 1854 to 1857 the city purchased several parcels of land near the corner of Dorrance and Washington streets in the Downtown for the purpose of constructing a new City Hall. The purchase of the assembled lots--now called the "City Hall Lot"--did little to end a long simmering controversy over a proper building site for the proposed government center. With plans for a City Hall stalled due to political bickering, in 1864 the site was leased to C.N. Harrington who constructed a two-story wood frame theater there. During the ensuing decade the "City Hall" playhouse hosted concerts, historical productions featuring the likes of Buffalo Bill, light opera, and lectures by such celebrities as Charles Dickens and Charles Sumner.

By 1874, Mayor Thomas Doyle, still unhappy with the location, vetoed the building plan once again, but that October, the City Council over-rode his veto 30 to 8. A few short days after the vote--and more than two decades after securing the property--ground was finally broken. On April 24th the following year the cornerstone was set in place.

The building, designed by Samuel J. F. Thayer, was one of twenty-one sets of drawings submitted to the city in a design competition. Drawings of the four finalists were placed on display and to avoid any appearance of favoritism in selecting the winning design, all identification was removed and names such as "Fait," "Maltese Cross," and "Blue Wafer" were assigned to the drawings. Thayer's "Blue Wafer" plan was chosen, and he was awarded the $1,000 first prize. The Boston native described his design as "renaissance, of the character widely adopted for civic buildings in the most advanced cities of the world." Thayer's plan included a massive tower atop the dome, but the effects of an economic recession nixed the plans. The council had originally budgeted approximately $635,000 for the building, however, cost overruns brought the eventual total to $1.1 million.

The impressive five-story, block long fireproof building was dedicated with great fanfare on November 14, 1878. The old city hall at Market Square was leased to the Board of Trade (later the Chamber of Commerce) who occupied it until 1938 when it was condemned as unsafe, partly due to a devastating hurricane that flooded most of the city. Rebuilt by the WPA, the building was gifted to the Rhode Island School of Design in May 1948 and is currently used for offices.

The Thayer designed City Hall stretches 133 feet along the Dorrance and Eddy Street sides and 160 feet on the Washington and Fulton Street sides. It is located over what was once part of the Cove Tidal Water basin requiring an artificial foundation resting on 3,128 piles driven into hardpan at various depths. Resting on the piles are large blocks of granite which provide a secure anchor for the building. The construction is of iron and brick, faced with Westerly granite on the Dorrance and Washington Street sides and New Hampshire granite on the other two sides. The sidewalks are also of granite blocks, 5 to 6 feet wide and 18 to 20 feet long.

Today Providence City Hall retains it prominence as the seat of municipal government and as one of the most outstanding examples of our city's rich architectural heritage. For a more detailed history of City Hall see the Providence City Archives web site.


Scope and Content
The loose manuscript records covering the period from 1874 to 1879 are contained in seven boxes and include plans, specifications and contracts as well as freight receipts, City Hall Commissioners incoming correspondence and Building Overseer records. There are also 6 bound volumes containing expense ledgers, outgoing correspondence, commissioner's minute books, and records of the Committee on City Hall Furniture.

Size: 2.6 linear feet.

Record Group 211

City Hall Building Plans, Specifications & Contracts: 1874 - 1879


Container Listing

Box # Folder # Title Date
AN20246
1 1 B. H. Gladding - Excavation Oct. 19, 1874
2 Boynton Bros. - Piling & Foundation Oct. 29, 1874
3 Summer P. Brown - Overseer of Building of City Hall Nov. 4, 1874
4 Hopkins & Pomroy - Bricks, Lime, Cement Dec. 13, 1874
5 Charles F. Eddy - Secretary and Clerk of the Commission Jan. 12, 1875
6 Harrison G. Macomber - Set, Cut Granite and Lay Bricks Jan. 18, 1875
7 Samuel J. F. Thayer - Architect Jan. 19, 1875
8 James A. Batterson - Lease Jan. 22, 1875
9 Charles A. Parker - Iron Work on Roof Mar. 3, 1875
10 Charles E. Kershaw - Furnish Vaults & Locks Apr. 14, 1875
11 Architectural Iron Work - Wrought Iron Works Nov. 11, 1875
12 Architectural Iron Works - Smoke Pipes June 6, 1876
13 Waumbeck Lumber Co. - Lumber Oct. 12, 1876
14 Galland Bash & Co. - Installing Elevator Nov. 1, 1876
15 Herbert R. Horton - Plaster Nov. 13, 1876
16 Portland Cement Stone Co. - Basement Floor Dec. 14, 1876

2 1 Davidson & Mars - Heating Apparatus Jan. 4, 1877
2 Joseph G. Haley - Partition Feb. 24, 1877
3 Cape Ann Granite Co. - Granite May 17, 1877
4 A. R. Whitney - Wire Lathing May 23, 1877
5 P & J Tierney - Plumbing June 13, 1877
6 A. R. Whitney - Erect Ceiling, Gallery Floor etc. in Council Chamber June 25, 1877
7 John Mack - Plastering and Cement Work July 6, 1877
8 Morton & Chesley - Carpentry Work July 17, 1877
9 O. C. Williams - Bells, Tubes and Electric Work Aug. 13, 1877
10 George W. F. Lewis - Recover Marble and Tile Floors Oct. 1, 1877
11 A. A. Whitney - Area Coverings in Sidewalks Oct. 19, 1877
12 J. B. & J. M. Cornell - Erecting Dome Oct. 26, 1877
13 John R. Shirley - Lantern Post Dec. 8, 1877

3 1 A. Wentworth, Roberts & Co. - Marble Work Jan. 28, 1878
2 G. W. & F. Smith - Window Frames Feb. 13, 1878
3 Whitteer Machine Co. - Sidewalk Mar. 25, 1878
4 John Chadwick - Laying Floors June 26, 1878
5 Specifications for Iron Work and Roof Nov. 11, 1875
6 Specifications for Masons Work and Setting the Cut Granite Work No Date
7 Specifications of Plastering Stucco and Cement Work No Date
8 Specifications of Carpentry and Contingent Work No Date
9 City Hall Commissioners - Legal Papers Sep. 1876 - June 1878

4 1 City Hall Commissioners - Incoming Correspondence Feb. 18 - Mar. 29, 1878
2 City Hall Commissioners - Incoming Correspondence Apr. 2 - May 14, 1878
3 City Hall Commissioners - Incoming Correspondence May 17 - June 27, 1878
4 City Hall Commissioners - Incoming Correspondence July 1 - Aug. 31, 1878
5 City Hall Commissioners - Incoming Correspondence Sept. 4 - Dec. 16, 1878
6 City Hall Commissioners - Incoming Correspondence Jan. 7 - Apr. 22, 1879
7 City Hall Commissioners - Incoming Correspondence - Telegraphs Received Aug. 7, 1876 - Mar. 31, 1879

AN20243
5 1 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - B. H. Gladding - Excavation Oct. 19, 1874
2 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Boynton Brothers - Piling and Foundation Oct. 26, 1874
3 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Sumner P. Brown - Overseer of Building of City Hall Nov. 4, 1874
4 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Hopkins & Pomroy - Bricks, Lime and Cement Dec. 13, 1874
5 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Charles F. Eddy - Secretary and Clerk of Commission on City Hall Jan. 12, 1875
6 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Harrison G. Macomber - Set Cut Granite and Lay Bricks Jan. 18, 1875
7 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Samuel J. F. Thayer - Architect Jan. 19, 1875
8 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - James A. Batterson - Lease Jan. 22, 1875
9 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Charles H. Parker - Iron Work on Roof Mar. 3, 1875
10 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Charles E. Kershaw - Furnish Vaults and Locks Apr. 14, 1875
11 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Architectural Iron Works - Wrought Iron Work Nov. 11, 1875
12 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Architectural Iron Works - Smoke Pipes Jun. 6, 187?
13 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Waumbeck Lumber Company - Lumber Oct. 12, 1876
14 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Galland Bash & Company - Installing Elevator Nov. 1, 1876
15 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Herbert R. Horton - Plaster Nov. 13, 1876
16 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Portland Cement Stone Company - Basement Floor Dec. 14, 1876

6 1 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Davidson & Mars - Heating Apparatus Jan. 4, 1877
2 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Joseph G. Haley - Partition Feb. 24, 1877
3 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Cape Ann Granite Company - Granite May 19, 1877
4 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - A. R. Whitney - Wire Lathing May 23, 1877
5 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - P & J. Teirney - Plumbing June 13, 1877
6 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - A. R. Whitney - Erect Ceiling, Gallery, Floor, etc. - Council Chambers June 25, 1877
7 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - John Mack - Plastering and Cement Work July 6, 1877
8 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Morton & Cheley - Carpentry Work July 17, 1877
9 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - O. C. Williams - Bells, Tubes and Electric Work Aug. 13, 1877
10 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - George W. F. Lewis - Recover Marble and Tile Floors Oct. 1, 1877
11 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - A. A. Whitney - Area Coverings in Sidewalks Oct. 19, 1877
12 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - J. B. & J. M. Cornell - Erecting Dome Oct. 26, 1877
13 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - John R. Shirley - Lantern Posts Dec. 8, 1877

7 1 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - A. Wentworth, Roberts & Co. - Marble Work Jan. 28, 1878
2 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - G. W. & F. Smith - Window Frames Feb. 13, 1878
3 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Whittier Machine Co. - Sidewalk Lift Mar. 25, 1878
4 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - John Chadwick - Laying Floors June 26, 1878
5 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Specifications for Iron Work and Roof Nov. 11, 1875
6 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Specifications for Masons Work and Setting the Cut Granite Work No Date
7 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Plastering, Stucco and Keene's Cement Work No Date
8 Plans, Specifications and Contracts - City Hall Building - Specification of Carpentry and Contingent Work No Date
9 City Hall Commissioners - Legal Papers Sept. 1876 - June 20, 1878

Title Date
Bound Volumes
Records of the Committee on City Hall Furniture Dec. 10, 1875 - June 2, 1879
City Hall Commissioners - Minutes 1874 - 1878
City Hall Commission - Minutes 1878 - 1879
City Hall Commission - Outgoing Correspondence No Date
City Hall Expense Ledger 1875 - 1877
City Hall Commissioners - Expense Ledger A 1874 - 1879




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