Photo by: Ralph Selitzer, DCAS
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11209
Date Built: 1846-1851
Architect: Gamaliel King
"…a dignified civic structure of impressive scale…"
-- NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, in its 1966 designation
Brooklyn Borough Hall, the original City Hall, is located on the north side of Joralemon
Street, between Court and Adams streets. It houses the Brooklyn Borough President
and is Brooklyn's oldest public building.
Brooklyn Borough Hall was originally built as Brooklyn's City Hall and contained
the offices of the Mayor and the City Council as well as a courtroom and a jail.
This was typical of early nineteenth century city halls, which contained all of
the functions of city government within one building.
Brooklyn was a growing community when it was incorporated as a city in 1834. The
following year a competition was held for a city hall, won by the architect Calvin
Pollard. While the cornerstone for the Greek Revival style building was laid in
1836, only the foundation was built due to financial problems. Construction began
again in 1845, with a revised and simplified design by Gamaliel King, and the incomplete
City Hall opened in 1848. It served as the Brooklyn City Hall for nearly fifty years,
before the consolidation with New York City in 1898, when it became the Brooklyn
This imposing Greek Revival style structure is clad in Tuckahoe marble. A monumental
staircase leads to an entrance with six fluted Ionic columns supporting a triangular
pediment. The cast-iron cupola, designed by Vincent Griffith and Stoughton &
Stoughton, is a 1898 replacement for the original, which burned in an 1895 fire
that also destroyed part of the interior. The statue of Justice, part of the original
plan, was finally installed on top of the cupola in 1988.
The architect, Gamaliel King, was a major figure in Brooklyn civic and ecclesiastical
architecture in the 19th century. His practice began in the 1820s and he designed
some of the borough's finest churches. His 12th Street Reformed Church (1868) in
Park Slope still stands today. He designed the spectacular, domed King's County
Courthouse (1861-5), now demolished, and the extant King's County Savings Bank (1868)
in Williamsburg. He was well known for his pioneering commercial architecture in
Manhattan through his work with John Kellum in the 1850s. The firm designed the
landmark Cary Building in Tribeca, one of the first full-fronted cast iron buildings
in the world.
The two-story rectangular lobby, known as the rotunda, has been restored to its
1845 glory. The stairs removed in 1897 were restored, as was the black and white
marble floor. The elaborate Courtroom, designed in 1903 by Brooklyn architect Axel
Hedman, has a coffered domed ceiling, carved wood paneling, fluted Ionic columns,
and ornate plasterwork.
Brooklyn Borough Hall is one of the most significant government buildings in Brooklyn
and the heart and soul of Brooklyn's Civic Center. In the 1980s, one of the City's
most ambitious efforts to date was commenced to restore the exterior, which had
suffered serious decay over the years. The award-winning work included stone work
restoration, replacement of copper shingles on the cupola and installation of stainless
steel cladding on the main roof, and repair of the clock and tower elements. The
bronze statue of Virtue on the roof, a part of the original design not built with
the building, was created from drawings and documents. Site work included raising
the plaza by two feet, installing an ornamental iron fence around the building and
placing historic lighting fixtures on the street.
Photo by: Ralph Selitzer, DCAS
Brooklyn Borough Hall is a designated New York City
Landmark. It is also listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic
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