Michael O. Bourne
Baltimore City Hall
100, Holliday St., N., Baltimore, Baltimore City
Baltimore’s City Hall is an early example of the French Renaissance Revival in this country. It is an imposing structure consisting of a center section 2 ½ stories high surmounted by a dome and flanked by 3-story wings. The center is finished with a plain pediment. The walls of the building are bluestone faced with cut marble. The basement is raised and uses heavily rusticated stone; the first, second, and third stories are broken by projecting pilasters with windows set off by elaborate keystones and semicircular archivolts. The mansard roof is slate with marble dormers.
The Baltimore City Hall is one of the early examples of French Renaissance Revival architecture in the United States. George A. Frederick (1842-1924), an important but little-studied Maryland architect, designed the City Hall when he was only 22 years of age. A native of Baltimore, Frederick studied architecture as a draftsman for the Baltimore, Maryland architectural firm of E.G. Lind and William T. Murdock. The city hall competition in 1864 launched his career, which lasted until 1903. Frederick’s other work in the city includes park furniture, pavilions, and gates, churches, public buildings, hospitals, and numerous private houses including Cylburn House, a Renaissance-Revival mansion. Frederick was selected to work on the restoration of the Maryland State House in Annapolis, indicating his high standing among his contemporaries. The Baltimore City Hall was the first such structure in the city built for the purpose. Since the 1790s, the Baltimore government had been housed in converted quarters. From 1823 to 1830, the city government had rented space in the Baltimore Exchange. In 1830 the Peale Museum was acquired, and used for 30 years until the present structure was commissioned. Actual construction did not begin until 1867 due to the Civil War. The building was completed in 1875. The ironwork for the Baltimore City Hall staircase and dome was the work of Wendel Bollman, inventor of the Bollman Truss, an innovational bridging principle used by 19th-century railroad companies.