ome records indicate that Philadelphians first considered a need for a new town hall in an ordinance passed as early as 1796. Serious consideration was never given to the project until the City and County of Philadelphia were consolidated into a single unit by a State Act of 1854.
he increased governmental complexity of this single municipal unit generated a need for newer and more centralized accommodations. A design competition for the erection of a new City Hall on Penn Square was held in 1860 to address the problem.
he winning design was produced by John McArthur Jr., a student of one of the period's most renowned architects, Thomas U. Walter.
nfortunatly, the onset of the Civil War doomed the project until 1868 when the City's legislative body, The Common and Select Councils, passed an ordinance for the erection of a new municipal building on Independence Square.
again won the competition, but angry opposition greeted the proposal to
use Independence Square, the nation's birthplace, as the building site.
ppealing to the State Legislature, opponents to the Councils' ordinance applied for and won an Act creating a commission "for the erection of all Public Buildings required to accommodate the courts, and for all municipal purposes in the City of Philadelphia."
assed and approved on August 5, 1870, the Act rendered the City ordinance ineffective, and eliminated the Independence Square site proposal. Voters, asked to choose between the alternate sites of Washington Square and Penn Square, selected the latter by a 20% margin in a popular vote.
|former hanging ground, and location of the city's waterworks in the 1800's, Penn Square was now destined to become home to the City's greatest achievement - its New City Hall.|
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