Monday, July 12, 2010

City Hall Tour

After several years of work, the renovation and restoration of our fabulous and nationally-famed Cass Gilbert Municipal Building (City Hall) is nearing completion. As a volunteer with Main Street Waterbury, I was privileged to go on a sneak-peek tour this past Saturday morning. Below are some of the photos I took, along with some explanations. (For contrast, take a look at the "before" photos in my 2006 blog post.)

As you can see, work is still in progress. The restored spaces, particularly the spectacular decorative walls and ceilings, are absolutely breathtaking. It reminds me of the Palace Theater when it reopened after being restored. Simply spectacular!

The cupola is completed. Constructed of copper laid over wood, with a gilt dome and some gilt details. The original clock movement was removed years ago and was given to the Mattatuck Museum.

Next is a view of the Aldermanic Chamber, with restored walls and ceiling. The mural map of Waterbury which you might remember being in the alcove is still there, under the painting recreating Cass Gilbert's original design. Our tour guide, Andrew Martelli (seen holding his daughter in the photo), explained that the map couldn't be removed without being destroyed, so the restored "original" fresco is designed to be removable without harming the map.

The restored ceiling of the Aldermanic Chambers.

Frescoes over the doorways on the second floor have been revealed and will be restored.

The restored ceiling of what was originally a courtroom on the opposite end of the second floor.

And a view of the wall with an appropriately judicial quote in the alcove--there are additional motifs throughout the room that indicate its original function.

A view of the courtyard.

Part of the fun of taking a tour before the project is completed is getting to see the "bones" of the building. The next shot is on the first floor, in the hallway, showing the marble walls laid over more functional brick.

The ceiling on the first floor. Absolutely amazing. Before it was a hideous yellow with white patchwork.

The main staircase. The original risers will remain, but the steps are so worn down they need to be replaced, after the construction crew are done using it. There are now two new and ugly staircases in the building in order to meet modern fire safety codes.

The restored walls and windows (which had been just about ready to fall out) in the main staircase.

Did anyone ever notice the medallions with Medusa before? Until now, they were covered with so many layers of paint they could barely be seen.

Below is the view towards the main staircase from what was originally the Mayor's Office, on the second floor. The Mayor's Office was relocated across the street after the Chase Companies sold their Cass Gilbert-designed headquarters to the city for one dollar in the late 1960s. As of next year, the Mayor's Office will return to City Hall, with one difference. The front room will be reception, and the Mayor's actual office will be down the hall, a little more difficult to access.

Here's another of the fun surprises revealed during the renovations--the original parquet floor of the Mayor's Office, hidden under layers of linoleum and vinyl.

Here's one of two skylights on the third floor (the other skylight has not been restored), in what was the drafting room. The entire third floor will be Corporation Council. Each of the city's eleven attorneys get their own office. Eleven attorneys! Something about that seems very disturbing. Why do we need eleven attorneys?

And last but not least, a view from the roof of the new bricks and marbles in front of the building. Interestingly, the new marble comes from the same Vermont quarry as the original marble. The main fountain will once again be a fountain, not a flower pot. There are some modifications--there is now going to be a walkway straight across the middle, since pedestrians have been cutting through that way for years. (Finally! The city does something pedestrian-friendly!).

While there were a few things that are too bad (like losing one of the skylights), overall the renovation and restoration are fantastic. I sincerely hope the project includes the creation of a regular plan of maintenance and that the city actually maintains proper care of the building. It is a stunning building, something we can all take pride in.


Anonymous said...

These are great pics. Thanks so much for sharing them. That building is one of my favorites in this beautiful city of ours and I am so happy to see so many of it's great features are being preserved.

Anonymous said...

Very well done. Great pics.