Public Design Commission of the City of New York
Art Commission of the City of New York
Art Commission of the City of New York
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City Hall Website Pre-Visit Guide



The Art Collection
City Hall has one of the foremost collections of early American portraiture. More than 108 portraits—of New York's governors and mayors, various presidents, naval and military heroes, foreign dignitaries, and other notables—line the walls of City Hall. The Design Commission recently completed a comprehensive long-term initiative to conserve the portrait collection and establish an endowment for its long-term care.
 


City Hall Lobby
Statue of George Washington
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In the lobby, a bronze statue (cast in 1857 by William James Hubbard; bought by the city in 1884) of George Washington is a copy of the marble original sculpted by Jean-Antoine Houdon in Paris in 1788 (which was commissioned for, and still stands in, the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond).


The Governor's Room
The Governor's Room
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The room was completed in 1816 as a picture gallery and reception room used by the governor and other important people when they visited New York. The two side chambers were added in 1832 and 1848, as space was needed for the display of busts and portraits in the growing collection. Refurbished numerous times during its history, the room now reflects the architectural framework it was given in 1909 by architect Grosvenor Atterbury, while the furniture and portraits evoke the early nineteenth century. Most recently (2002) the room was painted historic French green to approximate its original appearance, and new curtains and upholstering completed the color scheme.


Portrait of George Washington
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The portrait of George Washington by John Trumbull was the first art work commissioned by the city-to honor the Revolutionary War general and first president with a monument of respect. New Yorkers in 1790 were bereft that Washington was to leave due to the relocation of the capital. The painting celebrates Evacuation Day on November 25, 1783, when Washington re-entered New York after seven years of British occupation.


George Washington's desk
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George Washington's desk was the one he used as president in Federal Hall (the second City Hall), from 1789-90. It was brought to the Governor's Room in 1844.



The Council Chamber
City Council Chamber, 2002, City Hall, New York
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The chamber was created in 1897 by architect John H. Duncan to house the Board of Aldermen (renamed the City Council in 1938) when the Corporation of Greater New York was established, consolidating the city into five boroughs.



Seal of the City of New York.
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The Seal of the City of New York comprises a colonial sailor on the left and a native American on the right, flanking the sails of a windmill between which are depicted barrels of flour and beavers, important local contributions to seventeenth-century trade and commerce. The date of 1625 signifies the founding of the colony of New Netherland by the Dutch West India Company.



Statue of Thomas Jefferson
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To the left of the dais a statue in plaster of Thomas Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence by Pierre-Jean David D'Angers (1833) served as the model for a bronze in the U.S. Capitol. Uriah Phillips Levy, a naval officer and wealthy New York real estate investor, so admired Jefferson that he commissioned the sculpture and, in 1836, also bought Jefferson's house, Monticello, thereby preserving it for the American people.



Portrait of Marquis de Lafayette
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On the occasion of a year-long trip (1824-5) to the United States to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the American Revolution, the revered Marquis de Lafayette-the only surviving general of the war-was painted by Samuel F. B. Morse who received the prestigious commission from the Common Council.

Morse, in awe when he met Lafayette for the first time, recorded his impressions:

This is the man now before me, the very man...who spent his youth, his fortune, and his time, to bring about (under Providence) our happy Revolution; the friend and companion of Washington, the terror of tyrants, the firm and consistent supporter of liberty...this is the man, the very identical man!

(Silverman, Kenneth. Lightning Man: The Accursed Life of Samuel F. B. Morse. New York: Da Capo, 2004, p. 73)



Part III Activities:

1. Create a personal seal.

2. Draw a portrait that tells a story.

3. Find out about Samuel F. B. Morse's other career as a scientist.


 



1. William James Hubbard, Statue of George Washington, 1857, Bronze. Photograph by Glenn Castellano.

2. Governor's Room, East Chamber. Photograph by David Zadeh.

3. John Trumbull, Portrait of George Washington, 1790, Oil on Canvas. Photograph by Glenn Castellano.

4. George Washington's desk, 1789. Photograph by David Zadeh.

5. City Council Chamber, 2002, City Hall, New York.

6. Seal of the City of New York.

7. Pierre-Jean David D'Angers, Statue of Thomas Jefferson, 1833, Plaster. Photograph by Glenn Castellano.

8. Samuel F.B. Morse, Portrait of Marquis de Lafayette, 1824, Oil on Canvas. Photograph by Glenn Castellano.