Square Renovation Press Release
and Photographs
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Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani today cut the ribbon officially re-opening City Hall's Blue Room which recently underwent a three-and-a-half month, $260,000- renovation, funded through private and public sources. Through the years, the Blue Room has served as a public reception room, as the Office of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and is currently the site of mayoral press conferences. New Blue Room
New Blue Room
(Larger Photo is 50K)

"The Blue Room is the public face of City Hall, in the greatest City in the world," Mayor Giuliani said. "This room, which has served as the Mayor's public reception room for more than 180 years, has undergone only six renovations since 1862 and was, in fact, originally painted green. I am very pleased that the renovation has enhanced the historic character of the room while providing improved technological support for the media."
Blue Room Construction
Blue Room During Construction
(Larger Photo is 54K)
The renovation project which was funded by public and private funds, included stripping and refinishing the decorative woodwork, flooring, plaster ornament and doors; refinishing and repainting the walls; installation of new curtains and carpeting; and refurbishing the historic marble mantelpiece dating to 1812. New furnishings for the room include new seats for the press and a new conference table and chairs. Among the major structural improvements were an upgraded lighting and audio system.

The Mayor pointed out some of the fine detail work performed by craftsmen during the renovation. The ornamental ceiling medallion, cornice and rope moldings, as well as the wainscot and door-surrounds were carefully and meticulously stripped of layers and layers of old paint which obscured many of the room's most beautiful details. Among these details are the acanthus leaf molding and the bas-relief wooden plaque above the center doors which reads: "Law of the City of New York - 1811 Charter." Blue Room During
Blue Room During Construction
(Larger Photo is 47K)
Old Blue Room
Old Blue Room
(Larger Photo is 58K)
"The success of this project has depended largely on private citizens who understand the value of preserving and enhancing the history of City Hall," the Mayor continued. "At my inauguration almost one year ago, I asked the citizens of New York City to join with me in vowing to leave this City a better and more beautiful place than we found it. I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to all those who, through their hard work and generosity, have made historic City Hall a more beautiful place."
To commemorate the 100th Anniversary of New York City new portraits will grace the walls of the Blue Room. These individuals were all integrally connected to the history of eighteenth century New York or to the construction of City Hall. The portraits include:

  • Thomas Jefferson: was President of the United States at the time of the groundbreaking for City Hall (1803). He also served as the first Secretary of State under President George Washington when New York City was the young nation's new capital; portrait painted by Charles Jarvis;
  • Mayor DeWitt Clinton: appointed Mayor of New York City in 1803 and served until 1815. He was the first Mayor to use the Blue Room as his public office on April 18, 1812; portrait by John Trumbull;
  • Mayor William Paulding: served as Mayor from 1824 through 1829. Paulding also served as a Brigadier General in the New York State Militia during the War of 1812; portrait painted by Samuel F.L. Morse;
  • Mayor Edward Livingston: appointed Mayor in 1801 and presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for City Hall. After serving as Mayor and United States Attorney for the New York District, Livingston moved to New Orleans and later served as U.S. Senator from Louisiana; portrait by John Trumbull;
  • Mayor James Duane: appointed Mayor by Governor George Clinton in 1784, and served until 1789. He was New York's first Mayor after British occupation; portrait painted by John Trumbull.
(More Information on Blue Room Portraits)

Other historically significant mayoral portraits will be hung in the Blue Room on a rotating basis.

A committee of advisors composed of John S. Dyson, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors; Dr. Reba White Williams, former President of the Art Commission and Vice President of Special Projects at Alliance Capital; and Richard Jenrette, Chairman Emeritus of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, led the renovation project. Donors for the project included Shelby White and Leon Levy, Reba and Dave Williams, Deloitte & Touche, LLP, John S. Dyson, The Avenue Association, Joyce and Robert Menschel, Merrill Lynch & Co. Foundation, Inc., The Tisch Family Foundation, Richard J. Schwartz, Andrew M. Blum, Barbara G. Fleischman, Jean Rather, and Ramirez & Co., Inc.

The Decorator's Club, under the leadership of Sarah Tomerlin Lee and Jill Barber, initiated the Blue Room renovation project. Subsequent work was overseen by the Office of the Mayor, the Art Commission of the City of New York staff, The Landmarks Preservation staff, and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. The project team also included Gemini Cut Glass Co., Evergreene Painting Studio, Inc., Interiors by Robert, and Olaf Unsoeld and Cornelis Van Horn. The portraits now hanging in the room were restored by Ken Moser, painting conservator; fabric and trim was supplied by Scalamandre, Inc.; hardware was supplied by Baldwin. Lighting design and installation were provided by Brad Mackie, Prism Theatrical Lighting. Sound design was by Simon Nathan, Audio Production Services, Inc.

The Blue Room renovation was performed with the assistance guidance of the Art Commission and the Landmarks Commission. The guidance of Deborah Bershad, the Executive Director of the Art Commission, was a crucial component in the success of the project. Employees of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services were responsible for the carpentry work, electrical upgrades, painting and locksmith work. In addition, DCAS utilized the services of its bricklayers, machinists, engineers and ceremonies unit. The Mayor said that the work performed by these artisans was exceptional.

The work in the Blue room was coordinated by the Mayor's Office of Administrative Operation under the leadership of Jean Ross. Phil Wilhite brought the technological capacity of the room from the 19th century into the 21st Century. Additionally, Laurel Halberstadt and Frank Alesci and the Administrative Operations staff played an important role in coordinating work with DCAS and the private vendors. The Mayor congratulated all of these individuals and their staffs.

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The Blue Room was originally a green room. In 1983, the Landmarks Preservation Commission conducted a paint analysis and confirmed that the Blue Room was originally painted green. Early in Mayor Lindsay's administration the room was repainted and became known as the "Blue Room" because of the color of the walls.

DeWitt Clinton was the first Mayor to officially start to use the room as his public office on April 18, 1812.

Dimensions of the room are 28'8-1/2" wide, by 31'7" long and 15'11" high.

There have been only six refurbishments of the room on record since 1862:

On June 21, 1862 The New York Times reports that the Mayor's Public Office was "very handsomely refurbished with splendid heavy window shades, elegant English Brussels carpets and furniture covered with rich green plush, and the railing tastefully fluted in blue damask. This improvement gives a fine tone to the general appearance of the office…These improvements at the City Hall were much needed."

The current room retains many features from the 1915 design by the architect Grosvenor Atterbury.

In 1937, Mayor LaGuardia decides to use the room as his private office instead of a public reception room. In 1946, Mayor O'Dwyer moves his office back to the northwest corner, where the Mayor's private office is today

. In 1980, a survey of the portraits in City Hall is completed. At that time, the following portraits were in the Blue Room: Aaron Clark and Martin Van Buren by Henry Inman; Philip Hone by John Vanderlyn; Andrew Mickle by Edward Mooney; Robert Morris by Frederick Spencer; and William Paulding by S.F.B. Morse. The tradition of placing recent Mayors in the room started after 1980.

One of the few major architectural features that remains intact is the original 1811 marble fireplace, designed by John McComb.

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  • Twenty-four green and gold chairs are delivered to Mr. J.P. Roome for the Mayor's Office at a cost of $72.
  • Common Council holds its first meeting in August 1812 in the Mayor's reception room due to the unfinished state of its own chambers.
  • DeWitt Clinton is the first Mayor to officially start to use the room as his public office on April 18, 1812.

  • The Common Council pays Charles Christian $260 for furniture and Jordan Mott $110 for a clock for the Mayor's Reception Room.

  • The Common Council resolves to put a carpet on the floor.

  • Jacob Serred was paid $135.56 for painting City Hall (interiors) from April 1, 1815 to October 10, 1815. Several rooms, including the Mayor's Office and the Governor's Room, were painted green. (In 1983, the Landmarks Preservation Commission conducts a paint analysis and confirms that the Blue Room was originally painted green.)
  • According to a warrant from the Historical Documents Collection in Queens College, on December 29, 1819, two terino (sic?) carpets are installed in the Mayor's Office.
  • On June 21, The New York Times reports that the Mayor's Public Office was "very handsomely refurbished with splendid heavy window shades, elegant English Brussels carpets and furniture covered with rich green plush, and the railing tastefully fluted in blue damask. This improvement gives a fine tone to the general appearance of the office…These improvements at the City Hall were much needed."
  • William Martin Aiken, architect, restores the room. The New York Times reports on August 13, 1902 that: "The gaudy wallpaper and ceiling in the Mayor's Office will be removed and a white enamel (painted) ceiling and walls will be substituted, bringing back the appearance of the building as near as possible to the original colonial style."
  • On March 23, 1903, the New York Tribune describes the room: "Instead of gaudy decoration, there are now plain walls, almost white, with simple decorations which won praises from visitors at the Hall last week….Inside the large office, which will have a fancy wood floor covered by an immense rug, the first thing that strikes the eye is the series of old City, State, and national seals reproduced on the walls. There are two of these on each of the four walls, while in the ceiling over the chandelier is a partial reproduction of the first great seal of the United States. The rim of this contains the abbreviations of the original thirteen states….The Mayor's new general office will probably be furnished in Chippendale, and the few tapestries will be red. The furniture will not be ready for several months. Until it is delivered, the old furniture will be used.
  • The Art Commission has plans showing Aiken's designs. In a letter to the Art Commission, the architect writes:
    "The walls of the Mayor's Reception Room I have strongly been urged to retain for such charters, public documents, engravings, and other black and white subjects as possible, retaining only the large portrait of Lafayette over the mantelpiece, as this portrait I am using as the 'clou' (key) for the coloring of the furniture and hangings of that room."
  • The specifications for the room note that: "The trim of this room…will be painted white. The floor will be of two-inch strips of quartered white oak laid in 12 squares….It is hoped that the committee in charge will cooperate as to the hanging of the portraits, as the Architect is prepared to do so in the sparing but concentrated use of such gilding of the delicate modelling of the medallions as may be agreed upon as necessary to enhance the general effect of this room."
  • In addition to these elements, a rug by Herbert A. Wheeler from Persian Rug Manufactory was also proposed. Two designs, one approved by the Art Commission, are in the Art Commission records.
  • Grosvenor Atterbury, at the City's expense, has the Mayor's Reception Room repainted and the plaster seals from the walls and ceiling removed. The existing plasterwork, Adamesque in feeling, depended on the architect's comprehensive study of the original designs for City Hall. A list of furnishings for the room sent to the Art Commission includes: 4 sofas large and small, 12 side chairs, 1 head chair, 1 secretary's table, small tables, window hangings and rugs, and door porters.

  • Mayor LaGuardia decides to relocate his office from the northwest corner to the reception room.

  • Mayor O'Dwyer moves his office back to the northwest corner.

  • New drapes "trimmed with fringe, hung under covered valence boards as they are now, and held back by shaped trimmed tie-backs" were purchased for the room at $172 a pair. The material was woven "from old Colonial designs by Mr. Franco Scalamandre" of red pure silk damask with fringe dyed to match.

  • Early in Mayor Lindsay's administration the room was repainted and became known as the "Blue Room" because of the color of the walls.

  • A survey of the portraits in City Hall is completed by the Art Commission staff. At that time, the following portraits were in the Blue Room: Aaron Clark and Martin Van Buren by Henry Inman; Philip Hone by John Vanderlyn; Andrew Mickle by Edward Mooney; Robert Morris by Frederick Spencer; and William Paulding by S.F.B. Morse.

  • The room is restored again. Work in the room includes scraping, staining, and polishing the floor; stripping, refinishing, repairing and upholstering six chairs and a table; supplying new window shades; supplying new curtains; repairing the rug; and supplying a new lining for the rug.
  • One of the few major architectural features that remains intact is the original 1811 marble fireplace, designed by John McComb.
  • It is during this restoration that carpet now in the Blue Room is identified by Tadross Brothers Rug Company as a large Persian Bidjar or Yezd rug having a "retail replacement value of approximately $45,000."
  • On January 17, 1984 the refurbished room is reopened. The color of the walls was Pittsburgh Paint Bohemian Blue D.4067. The fabrics were provided by Scalamandre (samples are in the Art Commission's files).
  • Around this time, the portraits of Mayors Wagner, Beame and Lindsay are installed in the room.

  • The room is repainted, the floor stripped, and the carpet repaired. Back to Top

    City Hall/Blue Room Portraits (Long Version)

    Thomas Jefferson: Third president of the United States, this powerful advocate of liberty was born in 1743 in Albermarle County, Virginia, inheriting from his father, a planter and surveyor, some 5,000 acres of land, and from his mother, a Randolph, high social standing. He was no public speaker. In the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress, he contributed his pen rather than his voice to the patriot cause. As the "silent member" of the Congress, Jefferson, at 33, drafted the Declaration of Independence. In years following he labored to make its words a reality in Virginia. Most notably, he wrote a bill establishing religious freedom, enacted in 1786.

    He arrived in New York City on 21 March 1790 to become the first secretary of state of the United States under the first President George Washington. Jefferson gradually assumed leadership of the Republicans, who sympathized with the revolutionary cause in France. Attacking Federalist policies, he opposed a strong centralized government and championed states' rights.

    When Jefferson was elected President in 1800, the crisis in France had passed. He slashed military expenditures, cut the budget, eliminated the tax on whiskey so unpopular in the West, yet reduced the national debt by a third. Further, although the Constitution made no provision for the acquisition of new land, Jefferson suppressed his qualms over constitutionality when he had the opportunity to acquire the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803. During his second term, he was increasingly preoccupied with keeping the nation from involvement in the Napoleonic wars, though both England and France interfered with the rights of American commerce.

    Jefferson retired to Monticello to ponder such projects as his grand designs for the University of Virginia. He died on July 4, 1826.

    William Paulding (1770-1854): Congressman and mayor, Paulding studied law and practiced in New York City for several years before his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1811 as a Democrat from the twelfth district. During the war of 1812, he was a Brigadier General in the New York State Militia. Paulding served as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in 1821, and was the state's adjutant general before his election as mayor in 1824. In 1825 he was replaced by Philip Hone as mayor, but won reelection and held office again from 1826 to 1829.

    James Duane (1733-1797): Son of an Irish-born merchant, Duane was a law clerk before gaining admission to the New York bar in 1754. He was named attorney general of New York in 1767. A staunch Federalist, he served in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1784 and was appointed mayor by Governor George Clinton in 1784, the first to hold the office after the British evacuation. During his tenure, which lasted until 1789, he was instrumental in the City's rapid recovery from the war. From 1789 to 1794 Duane served as the U.S. District Judge for New York State. A street in lower Manhattan is named for him. Edward Livingston (1764-1836) (Statesman, brother of Robert Livingston) Born in Clermont, New York, Livingston graduated Princeton College in 1781 and then studied law, was admitted to the bar, and won election to Congress as a Democrat in 1794, serving until 1801. In that year he received simultaneous appointments as mayor and as U.S. attorney for the New York district. While in office as mayor he contracted yellow fever; on recovering he learned that city funds had been stolen by an aide. Livingston assumed responsibility and repaid the city with his own property, moving to New Orleans where he rebuilt his career. After resolving his financial problems he returned to NYC. He subsequently served in the U.S. Senate from Louisiana and was secretary of state under President Jackson. Construction on City Hall began under Livingston's administration.

    DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828): The son of the Revolutionary General James Clinton, he was employed as a private secretary by his uncle Governor George Clinton (also a general in the Revolutionary army) and entered the elite circles of government and society about 1790. Within a decade he was one of the most powerful politicians in the state. Appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1802, Clinton returned to the City in 1803 after being appointed mayor; he was re-appointed almost every year until 1815. During his mayoralties, he helped form the Free School Society, the New-York Historical Society, the Literary and Philosophical Society, and the Orphan Asylum, improved sanitation, administered public markets, guided plans to expand the city northward, and strengthened the defenses of the harbor against impending war with Britain.

    In 1815 Clinton no longer held public office, but returned to politics to promote the plan for the Erie Canal. He was the key force in securing the legislature's approval for this foresighted project, and in 1817 he was elected as governor. As both mayor and governor, Clinton had a vision of New York City's future as a great commercial center, and sponsored many measures to aid education and cultural institutions. In 1824 he was again elected governor, and served in office until his death. Clinton was the first mayor to have his offices in this, the third City Hall.

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