Monday, February 9, 2009
City Hall Building-Savannah
Taken from Savannah's Govt. web site:
Savannah's City Hall
Savannah's City Hall is located on Yamacraw Bluff overlooking the Savannah River. This is the same bluff where General James Oglethorpe landed in 1733 with the first group of colonists who would establish the City of Savannah and the last of the 13 colonies of England.
City Hall was designed and built by local architect Hyman Wallace Witcover in 1901. The original cost estimate of $205,167 included ornate statues of chariots and horses atop the structure. Budget considerations forced their deletion from the final plans, but they can still be seen in the architect's original rendering. City Hall is a Renaissance Revival building with classic proportions and detailing. The structure replaced a circa 1799 City Exchange building which had housed City government for many years. On January 2, 1906, ten thousand visitors attended the opening reception for City Hall. The first City Council meeting in the new City Hall was held the following day.
Exterior: The building's base is of rough-hewn granite blocks. Footings for City Hall rest more than 27 feet below the sidewalk level on Bay Street. This space houses the basement and sub-basement levels and can be seen from the River Street side. Stone steps lead down the east side of the building from Bay Street to the Drayton ramp and Factors' Walk. The cornerstone is located at the Bay Street level, on the northeast corner of the building, and can be seen from the stone steps, or from a nearby pedestrian bridge spanning Factor's Walk. The exterior building material changes at the Bay Street level to a four foot high skirt of polished granite. Then the building is divided into three major levels. The first floor exterior is made of smooth granite with deeply recessed joints. The second and third floors make up the second level which is sheathed in sand colored limestone with matching terra cotta trim. The fourth floor and dome base, constructed of the same materials, make up the final level. Two statues representing art and commerce adorn the fourth floor balcony. The dome rises 70 feet into the air. It was originally clad in copper but was gilded in 1987. The $240,000 project was a gift from a local philanthropist. Tissue-paper thin sheets of 23-karat gold leaf were applied to the dome, cupola, and clock hands.
Just outside the main entrance are two tablets put in place in 1918 to commemorate Savannah's importance to the maritime industry. One tablet marks the 100th anniversary of The Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. The second tablet commemorates The John Randolf, the first iron vessel seen in the Americas. The John Randolf was assembled in and launched from Savannah in 1834.
Interior: The four floors at and above the Bay Street level house various public services, while the two basement floors contain maintenance functions. One enters City Hall from Bay Street through a foyer that leads into a dramatic rotunda reaching four stories and peaked by a leaded glass dome of yellows, golds, and blues. Eight equally spaced windows belonging to an outer dome provide natural light to the stained glass.
White tile is used on the floors in both the foyer and the rotunda; however, different shaped tile and patterns are used to articulate each space. The seal of the City of Savannah is laid in the tiles of the foyer. The main floor rotunda's central feature is a circular fountain surrounded by a simple brass railing. It is highlighted by a bronze fountain composed of four dolphins with backs arched so that their tails extend above their heads to support a cherub sitting upon four large scallop shells. In his hands rests a horn of plenty. The bronze City Seal was returned to the fountain in 1987 after an absence of many years. No one knows how or when the seal disappeared, but it was rediscovered in an Atlanta flea market.
Other items of interest in the foyer and main floor rotunda include:
Brass chest time capsule, which was placed in 1976 by the Mayor and Aldermen to observe the bicentennial of the founding of this country.
Building dedication tablet placed in the lobby at the opening reception held on January 2, 1906.
Original Building Directory - At one time, most of the City's administrative offices were located in City Hall. Now, City of Savannah offices and agencies can be found in many areas of the municipality. In 1991, the City's Revenue Department, which was located on the first floor of City Hall for more than 80 years, moved to the Broughton Municipal Building (located on Broughton and Abercorn Streets).
City Hall's second floor has seen the fewest changes and still houses the Mayor's office and Council Chambers. The second floor also showcases the Hall of Mayors, displaying photographs or paintings of past mayors since 1790.