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So Cincinnati: City Hall

Updated: Friday, November 1 2013, 11:16 PM EDT
CINCINNATI (Joe Webb) -- Samuel Hannafords design on Cincinnati City Hall is called Richardsonian Romanesque. 

But when you walk in under a fresco of the Muses and stand at the base of an ornate marble staircase its hard to call the place anything but cool.  Mayor Mark Mallory says Hannaford wanted to create a space  that was grand but not ostentatious.

When you walked into the building you were supposed to have a sense of deference. Be somewhat in awe.  Realize theres a bigger picture.  You were part of it but there was a  bigger picture that you were always supposed to be respectful of, Mallory said in an interview on the street outside City Hall.

The building opened in 1893 with a parade and fireworks.  Hannaford used massive stones to create powerful arches and complimented the exterior with a 9-story clock tower.

The four stories of offices are accessed by an elaborate Italian marble staircase.  Each landing is flanked by a series of stained glass windows that tell the citys history through history  and art.  The staircase is original.  The windows are not.

It was a large building that was difficult to heat and they used a lot of coal and heating oil.  The soot would come down on the windows.  They were hard to clean so it wasnt until later that they put up the stained glass to let light in but people could no longer see the dirty windows, City worker Brad Burkhalter told Local 12 during a tour.

City Hall has undergone a handful of renovations.  Work in the 1990s uncovered three hidden frescoes that have been restored.  The buildings figure 8 design, that created more interior windows, also created two courtyards.  The eastern courtyard is no longer accessible but can be seen from dozens of windows.  Its now home to a garden that uses runoff from roof gutters to water the ground cover, shrubs and trees.  The western courtyard that once served as the entrance to the police department and jail is still open and is used for parking.

Hannaford designed City Hall shortly after riots destroyed the Hamilton County Courthouse.  His design included large steel gates that could block off each entrance and massive doors to seal the courtyards.  He also changed the size, shape and recess of the windows on each floor.

So as you get closer you dont see the depth of them and they look smaller which makes the building look larger and taller.  It looks more like a grand building,  Burkhalter said.

It is a grand building, hardly something you could build today.  And it is not So Cincinnati.  It IS Cincinnati.

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So Cincinnati: City Hall

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