SCC30-mun3.jpg (39357 bytes) New York Architecture Images-Seaport and Civic Center



McKim, Mead & White, William M. Kendall as chief designer


1 Centre St.  




Roman Imperial, Renaissance Revival  
Basing the design on their competition entry for Grand Central Station, McKim Mead and White interpreted New York City's greatest civic skyscraper in an eclectic fashion incorporating elements from from Roman Imperial, Italian Renaissance and French Renaissance architecture. The tripartite facade organization echoes that of a classical column. An arcaded loggia forms a triumphal arch marking the terminal point of Chambers Street. Above the ground floor colonnade, sculptural reliefs emphasize civic virtues: Progress, Civic Duty, Guidance and Executive Power, Civic Pride and Prudence. Emblems of municipal departments adorn panels between the second floor windows.


60.070sq. m. / 650,000sq. ft., 169,9m / 559.0ft, 40 floors, light-colored Maine granite
The design was influenced by the "City Beautiful" movement of the 1890s which promoted plans for creating public buildings in landscaped parks. The mid-part of the 34-storey tripartite facade is a U-shaped mass of austere light-toned granite over a high colonnade that forms the building's base and separates a front yard from the sidewalk. The top facade forms a colonnade of Corinthian columns and pilasters. 
On the top, above the middle section of the building, there are three tiered drums on top of another, flanked by four smaller pinnacle turrets, symbolizing the four boroughs joined to Manhattan. At the height of 177 m stands the 6 m high statue Civic Fame by Adolph A. Weinman, New York City's second largest statue after the Statue of Liberty. The statue holds a crown with five turrets, symbolizing New York City's five boroughs


  Click here for a MUNICIPAL BUILDING gallery
  Click here to see images of Stalinist architecture influenced by this building.
  The consolidation of the five boroughs into Greater New York in 1898 created the need for an impressive and suitably-sized headquarters for the city government. Between 1907 and 1908 the city sponsored an architectural competition for a large office building to consolidate various agencies. Urged by Mayor McClelland to enter, the firm of McKim, Mead & White won with a proposal for a classically detailed skyscraper. Designed by a partner William Mitchell Kendall (1856-1941), the U-shaped structure was adroitly placed on an irregular site adjacent to the ramps of the Brooklyn Bridge and criss-crossed underground by transit connections. Completed in 1913, the 25-story block is surmounted by a central "wedding-cake" tower of spires, colonnades, obelisks and the sculpture "Civic Fame" by Adolf A. Weinman. This skyscraper grafts the language of traditional civic architecture onto a commercial office block form. 

The Municipal Building underwent a complete restoration of its exterior masonry in 1999, which entailed a the replacement of the badly corroded metal pins which hold the granite cladding in place. 


This building impressed Josef Stalin so much that the Moscow University main building (1949-1953) was later based on it -- as well as, in general, the whole grandiose public building style in the Soviet Union. 

Municipal Building SignThe Municipal Building is located at the intersection of Chambers and Centre streets in downtown Manhattan. Home to DCAS, the Municipal Building also houses the Department of Finance, Civil Service Commission, Manhattan Borough President, Public Advocate, Comptroller, County Clerk, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Office of Payroll Administration, Tax Commission, and field offices for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, Department of Buildings, Inspector General, Department of Environmental Protection, and the Mayor's Office. But did you know that the Municipal Building is one of the largest government buildings in the world? Or that more than 28,000 New Yorkers are married here each year? Municipal Building

This beautiful building has a rich history. By 1884, the City of New York had surpassed the limited physical space in City Hall and additional space was required for all of the many functions and services needed for a city which then numbered over a million. Many of the growing government agencies that were necessary for such an expanding city were located in rented offices in privately owned buildings north of Wall Street to what we now call midtown.

Arches and Light BulbsIn his second annual report to the Board of Alderman in 1884, Mayor Franklin Edson stated that City Hall was becoming too crowded and that its "style of architecture was such that without marring its present symmetry, it couldn't be enlarged to the required extent."

Continuing lack of space and a general desire to decrease rents paid by the city to landlords led to the appointment of a commission in 1888 by Mayor Abraham Hewitt to select a site and advertise for plans. Four architectural competitions were commissioned between 1888 and 1907. The fourth, and final, competition for a design for the Municipal Building was commissioned by the Commissioner of Bridges, whose agency had acquired part of the designated land for a new terminal for trolleys that ran across the Brooklyn Bridge. Twelve architectural firms Column and Cat Walksubmitted plans for a new building in the final competition and the winning submission was designed by a young partner in the firm of McKim, Mead and White. By the time the award-winning design was selected in 1908, New York City included five boroughs and over 4.5 million people. By 1909, the foundation work began on what was soon to be one of the largest government office buildings in the world.

The firm of McKim, Mead and White was internationally renown and was then the largest architectural firm in the world with a staff of more than 100. Their work was well respected by the profession and well known for their quality of construction and the contractors used. Other examples of this firm's work include the Rhode Island State Capitol building, the Morgan Library and the American Academy in Rome.

Civic Fame Photo and LinkThe Municipal Building was the firm's first skyscraper. The building design used the Roman, Italian Renaissance and Classical styles. The central tower is surmounted by the heroic figure of Adolph Weinman's "Civic Fame" in copper, 20 feet high, poised on a large copper ball.

Various types of sculpture and relief cover portions of the Municipal Building. The central arch is decorated with sculpture in the Roman manner as was used in the Arch of Constantine. Over the side arches are rectangular allegorical panels. At the left (north), Civic Duty is represented by a woman personifying the City, accompanied by a child holding the seal of the city. On the right of the arch (south), Civic Pride shows the female personification of the city receiving tribute from her citizens. Adolph Weinman, the sculptor of Civic Fame, also designed the shields that were used in the elevators, on the molding above the colonnade and again on the false colonnade above the 22nd floor. They represent New Amsterdam, the Province of New York (under English rule), the City of New York, the County of New York and the State of New York.

Roman NumeralsThe Municipal Building was completed in 1915, but the first offices were occupied January 1913 and by 1916, the majority of the offices were full and open to the public. The building was designated a landmark in 1966 by the City's Landmarks Preservation Commission and has seen two major renovations, the last completed in 1993.

Elevator ArrowsToday, the "Muni" Building is home to over 3,000 employees in nearly one million square feet of floor space. The main building is comprised of 25 floors and 33 elevators, with another 15 stories in the tower. Some 2,000 people use the various services and agencies located in the building every day, including over 80 couples who visit the City Clerk for four-minute weddings.

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