Monday, March 28, 2011

Old City Hall

My choice for the award for "most ornate building in Richmond" goes to the Old City Hall at 10th and Broad Street.  The excess of the Victorian Gothic exterior is surpassed only by the colorful painted arches and columns on the building's interior.

Built in the late 1800's, the structure occupies a very special place in downtown - facing the back side of Jefferson's Capitol grounds.  It was retired from its original use when the new modern city hall was built in the 70's and is now used for general office space.

My earlier comments poke a bit of fun at the exuberance of the design but it accurately reflects the architectural attitude of the country at that time.  I have to admit it is one of my favorite buildings in Richmond. What is truly amazing to me is that it was initiated little more than ten years after the end of the Civil War. 

The exterior is made of locally-quarried gray granite from near the James River.  The Pump House in Byrd Park uses the same stone and has a matching style.  Being void of color makes each elevation a study of light and shadow.  The only color on the exterior is the greenish copper trim along the roof.

It is hard to describe the interior so I'll leave that to photographs.  What is particularly interesting to me is the skylit atrium in the center.  The floor of the atrium is made of suspended glass block which extends the light to the basement level.  The interior was originally lit by gas lamps and the original radiators are still in operation.

The National Park Service has a very good write up on the history of the building found here:

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