Page 45 - May2017

Basic HTML Version

completion it was entirely stripped of any remaining ornamentation
from its original design and converted into a joint station for the police
and fire departments. It would remain their headquarters for fifty years.
In August of 1961, an editorial in the
Galveston Daily News
the condition of Old City Hall and advocated for new facilities. The next
month, Hurricane Carla slammed Galveston with sustained winds of
175 miles per hour, and the magnificent City Auditorium was severely
damaged beyond repair, although City Hall remained unscathed.
In 1963, the auditorium was permanently dismantled, and in 1965 a
new structure was built in its place that housed public works, the police
department, fire department, and city jail. A drive-through payment
window for water bills was added on the north side of the building.
A few years later, Old City Hall was at last demolished.
Today, City Hall stands tall, albeit without its impressive auditorium,
and the police and fire stations have since received independent
structures of their own. However, many of the city offices are even in
the exact same place they were in 1916 when the building was first
opened. But by far the most impressive artifact housed within this
historic city confine are the original twin marble staircases, the focal
point of the first floor, that remain beautifully intact over one hundred
years later.
The exterior trimmings were made of terra cotta,
with the exception of the base course of the
building that was carved from algonite stone, a
mixture of crushed marble, granite, stone, cement,
and lead ore. The parts of the roof that sloped
were laid with red Spanish tile, and the flat parts
were covered with composition roofing; all of it
was painted red. Door and window trims were
painted burnt orange, and the cornice of the roof
was plated with copper.
Encompassing over half of the building on its
west side was the municipal building, a 5,000-seat
auditorium with an arena and a movable stage
could be altered to accommodate dances, dinners,
theatrical performances, and conventions; it was
even used for hairstyling and cooking classes.
The 26
Street entrance into the auditorium was
marked by a large
porte cochere
that protected a
driveway and porch from inclement weather. Just
inside, a vestibule was flanked by a coat check
room and manager’s office to the north and south,
respectively; this led to a foyer that spanned the
entire width of the building, allowing for multiple
interior entrances into the auditorium.
The stage area was recognizable from the
exterior of the building, as the eighty-two-foot
high fly space above the stage required the
insertion of a tower in the center of the structure.
Other dimensions of the stage area were just as
impressive: seventy-six feet wide and forty-nine
feet deep from the footlights to the upstage wall,
with a proscenium opening that measured thirty-
eight feet tall by seventy-six feet wide.
City Hall was situated within the eastern portion
of the building, the main entrance of which faced
Street and opened up into a large foyer
with two winding marble staircases fixed to the
east wall between the first and second floors. To
the left were the offices of the city waterworks
department, opposite the tax assessor and
collector offices to the right.
On the second floor, the south side of the building
was dedicated to an office for the mayor, and
across the landing sat the city secretary’s office
which was located adjacent to a council room
large enough to hold about seventy-five people.
On the north side of the second floor were the city
attorney’s office and another four offices for each
of the city commissioners.
On the third floor, the north half was the
designated workspace of the city engineer,
divided into two rooms: one for a private office
and the other for a drafting room. Opposite this
were rooms for the city building inspector, city
electrician, and a small room for the stenographer.
A large amount of space on the third floor and all
of the fourth floor were left vacant, to be built out
as needed in the future.
As for Old City Hall, after the new building’s
City Hall and Auditorium 26th Street entrance c. 1916
City Hall and the Magnificent City Auditorium c. 1920
Images courtesy of Rosenberg Library
MAY 2017 |