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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

City Hall

In 1891, Charlotte erected an imposing city hall at the corner of N. Tryon and Fifth Sts. Designed by Gottfrid L. Norrman (1846-1909), the building housed all city services, including the police department and the fire department. By the early 1920s, Charlotte had outgrown this facility. Consequently, James Oscar Walker (1879-1947), who was elected Mayor on May 3, 1921, advocated the construction of a new municipal complex. The City purchased an entire block on East Ave, now E. Trade St., in the midst of what was then a fashionable residential area. Interestingly, the Charlotte Observer proposed that the Board of County Commissioners sell the courthouse, situated on S. Tryon St., and join with the City in erecting a single structure on this location. Happily for Mayor Walker, who did not favor this proposition, the citizens rejected the idea of a joint facility at the polls on July 28, 1923.

On January 26, 1924, City Council authorized Mayor Walker to negotiate a contract with Charles Christian Hook (1870-1938) to design the new city hall. C. C. Hook occupied a place of pivotal importance in the evolution of the built environment of Charlotte, N.C. The Charlotte City Hall is the most imposing public building which Hook designed.

Unquestionably, the decision to transfer municipal headquarters from N. Tryon St. to the residential district on E. Trade St., was of pivotal importance in terms of the physical history of this city. In addition to its symbolic significance, the placement of City Hall at this new location set into motion a series of forces which eroded the viability of the surrounding neighborhood. Noteworthy in this regard is the fact that the Board of County Commissioners did dedicate a new courthouse on an adjacent parcel on March 10, 1928. City Council selected the site on E. Trade St. for the City Hall because it was, "one of the most beautiful wooded areas of the city wooded in the city."

County Courthouse

The official opening of the edifice which served as the Mecklenburg County Courthouse occurred on March 10, 1928. It was a festive occasion. Musicians serenaded the throng of local citizens who meandered through the structure that Saturday afternoon. Banks of flowers adorned the various departments, where officials, dressed in their Sunday best, waited to guide the visitors through their particular facility. "The most popular part of the courthouse," The Charlotte Observer reported, "was the jail, where every caller was anxious to visit." The Board Of County Commissioners had instructed the architect of the new courthouse, Louis H. Asbury of Charlotte, N.C., to place the jail on top of the building. Only in this way could they assuage the fears of nearby residents concerning the proximity of the jail. Not surprisingly, politicians were in plentiful supply at the official opening, "seeking votes and making friends". Indeed, the members of the Board of County Commissioners (R. N. Hood, Chairman; R. E. Henderson, J. A. Newell, J. R. Robinson and W. M. Ross) stood at the front door throughout the celebration (3PM until 10 PM) to greet the thousands of Mecklenburg County residents who came to inspect the new $1,250,000 courthouse.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

  • Having trouble identifying brick patterns, shingle patterns, or other parts? See the Illustrated Guidebook for help!
  • On City Hall, the second and third stories of the central section of the front facade are joined by colossal, fluted, Corinthian limestone columns which rise from bases in the balustrade.
  • If you have time, go inside City Hall. The lobby, with the exception of the entrance doors, has been kept basically in its original state. The main floor and corridors are finished in pink Tennessee marble. The pilasters, arched door frames capped with ornamental scrolls, and wainscoting on all walls also consist of the light-colored marble.

    ACTIVITIES

    At the site...

  • Notice some of the details of City Hall. Compare what you see to the Charlotte National Bank building as well as to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.
  • Notice the different types of front entries for the two buildings. Sketch the front entry bay for each building. Identify the parts in each.

    On your own...

  • Compare City Hall to the nearby Mecklenburg County Courthouse. Notice similarities and differences in orders, entrances, columns/pilasters, windows, roofline, and decorative details.
    Use a Venn Diagram to illustrate your observations of these two buildings.
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