Basic Facts About City Hall
A Factual and Historical Glance
The Common Council decided to build a new city hall in 1889; before that, city government had been scattered around in rented rooms and some of the buildings had been destroyed by fire. Construction was authorized by a Common Council resolution in 1890 and on August 29, 1891, a resolution was passed calling for a City Hall design contest. The contest drew eleven applicants on a nation-wide basis with a wide variety of concepts and ideas. The plans of Henry C. Koch and Company were chosen. The building – which cost just over $1 million to construct – was completed in 1895.
The Flemish Renaissance inspired building required eight million bricks, weighs approximately 41,000 tons, has more than 47,000 sq. feet of mosaic and marble flooring, and features approximately 107,000 sq. feet of office and meeting space. The building was one of the first to feature an extensive open atrium, of 20 by 70 feet, rising eight stories in the building's center. During the Great Depression, seven people jumped to their deaths, and an eighth died of a stroke after one of the jumpers nearly missed him. Afterwards, in 1935, protective wiring was placed around the center rails of the floors to prevent accidents and suicides and remained in place until Mayor John O. Norquist took office in 1988. The building measures 393 feet from the base of the bell tower to the top of the flagpole, making it Milwaukee's sixth largest. The flagpole measures 40 feet in length.
The 22,500 pound bell – named "Solomon Juneau" after Milwaukee's first mayor – was fabricated from melted copper and tin from old church and firehouse bells around the City, and was hoisted to the tower in 1896, first chiming on New Year's Eve. While Milwaukee's Allen-Bradley building (Rockwell Automation) features the world's second largest four-sided clock, City Hall's 18-foot clock was believed to be the world's third largest when it was fabricated.