the old city hall was built in 1894. it was the first major construction project in the city of richmond after the civil war. this beautiful high victorian gothic building was designed by architect elijah myer. the old city hall is listed on the national register of historic places. today the old city hall is an office building and is open to the public during business hours.
The architecture of downtown Richmond was not very pretty, in my opinion, as in right many modern American cities. Additionally there were some renovations which closed streets there in October, 2004. I personally prefer small architecture (more human although less practical esp. for cars) of tiny streets easy to find in every old European city.
But, anyway, in Richmond I found more old buildings and green space (especially along Monument Avenue) than in most American cities. In downtown I liked the green space around the Capitol Square, a few older buildings and especially this impressive building on my picture. It's the Old City Hall built in 1886-1894 in the High Victorian Gothic style. It housed the city government till 1976 when the new City Hall building, across Broad Street, was completed. In 1980s the building was renovated and converted into the commercial office building.
During the second half of 19th century, the new domestic style in architecture - High Victorian Gothic style - became popular in the USA. It's called neo-gothic, late Victorian, High Victorian or simply Victorian style. However, "Victorian" is not really a style but a period in history (ca 1840 - 1900). There is a variety of Victorian styles, each with its own distinctive features. High Victorian Gothic buildings had arches, pointed windows and other details borrowed from medieval cathedrals.
This style or better to say styles came from Victorian England where architects were bored by the monotonous classical terraces/rows of plain Georgian houses. A new generation of nouveaux riches in a period of fast industralisation spent a lot of money for new, impressive houses in the new style. In the USA the style was used for ecclesiastical, public, and residential architecture mainly in 1860 - 1880.
In Richmond the prime example of the style is the Old Town Hall with four corner towers, each of different design. The tallest is the northwest tower (on my picture) of 195 ft (59 m) that is almost 20-store buiding.
There is a variety of Victorian styles, each with its own distinctive features. High Victorian Gothic buildings had arches, pointed windows and other details borrowed from medieval cathedrals.
Look at the portal of the Old Town Hall on my picture. It really looks like an entrance to the medieval cathedral.
These windows of the Old Town Hall, on my picture, were typical for large public buildings built in High Victorian style at the end of 20th century. They were more decorative and larger than previously built windows of Georgian style. Generally, American Victorian style was adopted for larger houses and residencies, typical for era of fast industralisation which created a new generation of nouveaux riches.
They tell me Richmond's City hall from 1894-1977 is Victorian Gothic in style. The old city hall is now a private office building, but it casts an imposing architectural figure downtown. The interior "courtyard" is a three-storey painted cast-iron marvel. With a 400% cost overrun during its construction, they thought about scrapping the project altogether. But the building was saved from that fate by a historical society. Visitors welcome on the first floor only and the building is open during normal business hours.
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I was quite taken with Richmond's Old City Hall. It is remarkably similar to the old city hall building in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, they don't make buildings like this anymore. It seems that there is some sort of law that requires municipal buildings to be sprawling, flat-topped complexes without windows.
Nat wanted to take me to the top of the New City Hall building to get a bird's eye view of Richmond but the day was so gray and gloomy, I didn't think it worth the bother. If you would like to see the view from the top on a sunny day--visit the introduction to Nat's (b1bob) Richmond page.
Old City Hall is an impressive building located just off of the Capitol Grounds behind the Washington equine statue. The High Victorian Gothic style architecture provides a bold contrast to Jefferson's more classical Greek-style Capitol.
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