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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
Brooklyn's City Hall
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Brooklyn's City Hall
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New York City Hall was not the only major public building that was erected in the early nineteenth century. As Brooklyn begins to grow as a separate city there was often a rivalry between New York City and the city of Brooklyn. And Brooklyn was often trying to do things that were bigger and better than those in New York City. They usually failed at this, but there were often attempts to do this.

And in the 1830s Brooklyn decided that they needed their own city hall, and the idea was that it would be bigger and grander than New York City Hall. They started construction on this and ran out of money. Construction stopped. And in the 1840s it started again, and an architect named Gamaliel King designed one of the most prominent Greek-revival buildings in New York, a building that also established the significance of the civic realm in the city of Brooklyn.

At the time this was built Brooklyn was still a relatively small but rapidly growing city. And the City Hall was really much too big for what they needed, but there was this image that Brooklyn would grow into a great city and would need a great city hall. It was designed in a very fashionable, very impressive Greek-revival style, and it was placed at a very crucial site on Fulton Street, so that everybody who was getting off of the ferry and was commuting home along Fulton Street would see Brooklyn's City Hall from a very far distance.

And so like New York's City Hall, the site was very carefully chosen to add to the sense of grandeur of the building. It had a cupola on top originally, just as City Hall in New York did, but the cupola burned in the 1890s and the present cupola is an early-twentieth-century replacement for that.

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