Sue Bell writes:
Nothing remains now to mark its presence but a stone shaft and plaque on the southwest corner of Chemeketa and High Streets. Erected in 1989, the monument was installed 17 years after demolition of the original City Hall building when the Civic Center Complex was completed in 1972....It's a little lonely here.
The remaining salvageable material was carted off by wrecking contractor E.S. Ritter to dispose of as he saw fit.
Though the property is now bank parking lot, in a corner which stands the easily overlooked stone shaft commemorating Old City Hall, there are still bits and pieces of the venerable municipal structure scattered throughout the City. In these traces, the memory lives on.
Not long after it was built it looked like this. Chemeketa is not yet paved here.
On the 19th of January, 1893, Mayor Gatch and the City Council received recommendations from the Committee on Fire and Water to begin the process of acquiring new City Hall property in order to consolidate all the municipal offices in one central area. An amendment to the City Charter was called for to allow bonding to float a $10,000 indebtedness to the City, which would be added to the $20,000 proceeds from sales of current City property. By April, the Building Committee had completed specifications on the City Hall and were ready to entertain bids on the new construction.Here's a much larger image from more recent times, complete with parking meters - be sure to click to enlarge!
The plans for a "High Victorian Gothic" edifice submitted by Walter D. Pugh were accepted by the Council on April 20th. Pugh's compensation was to be 4% of the contract price for the construction. However, one change in the specifications was recommended at the Council meeting: the clock tower would be 136 feet high, rather than the 156 feet in Pugh's plan.
One detail that seems have been lost to history is the role William C. Knighton had in the design. According to an article from 1894, just before he was finishing up the Deepwood project (though it didn't get that name until well into the 20th century), Knighton's
first work was to perfect a set for plans for the Salem City hall now under construction.It would be interesting to know just what this "perfecting" involved! Was it detail work a draftsman might undertake? Was it structural engineering, perhaps for the tower? Was it what we'd today call "value engineering"?
In February 1895, a list of warrants shows that Knighton was still working with C. S. McNally and that Charles Burggraf also had his fingers in the cookie jar!
In any case, in the same report as the list of warrants there was apparent confusion in authority between the superintending architect Pugh and construction superintendent Harrild, and within a few months it had blossomed into a full reprimand over - wait for it! - concrete and masonry:
The report listed several problems with structural concrete, masonry, and iron, and concluded
Architect Pugh has exceeded his authority and has violated the spirit of his contract with the city and laid himself open to just criticism and reprimand by the council.Maybe it's no wonder the tower on the Grand Theater collapsed in a snow storm! (A correspondent has mentioned another problem tower associated with Pugh, but we couldn't find the reference - we'll update if we can.)
Today the early 70s brutalism of New City Hall probably looks ugly and useless in the same way the chunky Romanesque Gothic of Old City Hall looked in 1972. So that's a cautionary tale about the vagaries of fashion and about probable folly in rushing to vacate and demolish the Civic Center. It's also a little alarming that Salem seems to have a problem with public buildings and their concrete!
But more than anything, it's sad that nothing better than a parking lot has replaced the Old City Hall. That's real ugliness.
(Images: Old City Hall late 1890s and Old City Hall with Parking Meters from Salem Public Library Historic Photograph Collection. It has lots of other images in the collection.)