Featured Facility - City Hall
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, this Louisville landmark at 601 W. Jefferson St. is an impressive piece of civil Architecture and a metaphor for Louisville's Post War optimism and can-do attitude. Its exuberance is a stylistic counterpoint to the far more austere, 1836 Greek Revival style county courthouse across 6th St.
Before city hall was built, there was no city Government building. City officials had shared space in the County Courthouses. Plans for the city hall were initiated when a design competition was help with the winner receiving five hundred dollars. In April 1867 the winning design, created by Louisville architects John Andrewartha and CS Mergell, was chosen. By the summer of 1870 the final plans of construction had been drawn by Andrewartha, in association with local architects C.L. Stancliff and Co. The existing government buildings on the site were demolished, and ground was broken for the building's foundation. The city engineer, I.M. St. John had been chosen by Louisville General Counsel to oversee the project, and Andrewartha was named the managing architect.
Built with stone from the White River quarries near Salem, Indiana, city hall's construction took place between 1870 and 1873 at a cost of $464,778. The city hall, with its three stories and raised basement, was a blend of Italianate motifs and the French Second Empire style that was prominent in civic buildings after the Civil War. The edifice is also characterized by prolific use of symbolic ornamentation. Louisville's trust in progress and railroads is reflected in the buildings upper carvings. For instance, the pediment over the main entrance displays a bas relief of the city seal represented by a train "plowing through the wilderness" past such Southern flora as a palm tree and bearing the slogan "Progress 1871" This not only indicated the direction of Louisville's principal trade but was also an apt symbol of the tremendous influence the railroads, especially the Louisville and Nashville line, had on the city's commercial development. Likewise, the stone livestock carvings along the sides of the building reflect the importance of Louisville's Stockyards in her economic history. Another prominent feature of the city hall is its 196-foot-high, four faced clock tower with a mansard roof, built by Henry Whitestone in 1876 after an 1875 fire had damaged the original.
A major exterior restoration of City Hall was undertaken in 2017. The limestone walls were cleaned, masonry joints were tuck pointed, and windows were renovated. During the restoration, several architectural elements were replaced such as the limestone columns and cast-iron corbels. Many of the same methods used to construct the elements were used to recreate the replacement pieces.
Thought the exterior has remained largely unchanged, several renovations and remodeling projects have left little of the original interior intact. Today, the building houses the offices and chambers of the Louisville Metro Council.