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Columbia University Digital Knowledge Ventures The Architecture and Development of New York City with Andrew S. Dolkart
image The Public Realm Civic Buildings
Inside City Hall
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Civic Buildings
Inside City Hall
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The interior is among the most lavish and underappreciated in America from the early nineteenth century. It is an extraordinarily sophisticated design, both in its ornamental detail and in the manner in which you are moved through the space, so that you are channeled to the public areas and not to the private areas of the building.

The building was built for all of the city government. It included the office of the mayor, it included courts, it included the meeting room of the Common Council, so all the city government offices were in the building. And the public was welcome in the courts and the Common Council chamber, but not in the private offices and in the mayor's office. And the mayor's office and the private offices were on the first floor, and the public spaces were on the second floor.

You walk into the building into a very grand entrance vestibule with marble walls (and this is the original stonework). And as you come through the front door you look straight ahead through a series of arches, to a very beautiful stair. And you are drawn immediately from the front door to the stair, because you're not welcome on the first floor. There are narrow passageways where you can turn left or right to get to the mayor's office or to the other private offices, but you don't even notice them from the front door. What you notice is the stairway, and you're drawn straight ahead to one of the most spectacular stairways of the early nineteenth century.

It is a double stair that is unsupported except at the base. The stair treads are cantilevered out of the wall, and they curve up beneath a spectacular dome that's supported on Corinthian columns.

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