NYC - Civic Center: Municipal Building - Prudence and Civic Duty
The Municipal Building, at 1 Centre St., was designed by William M. Kendall of McKim, Mead & White, and built in 1909-1915 as the joint administration offices for the Greater New York, created after the annexation of Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island to Manhattan in 1898. After two inconclusive design competitions to replace the City Hall in 1888 and 1893, and a law was signed that prohibited its replacement in 1894, the site of the 1907 competition was shifted to a plot to the north-east, originally meant for an extension of the Brooklyn Building trolley terminal. The selection was made in 1908 and the next year work on this behemoth with 60,400 m² of office space -- a feature that helped the design to win the competition -- was begun. The first occupants moved to the building in January 1913, two years before work on it was completed.
The building was influenced by the fashionable "City Beautiful" movement of the 1890s which promoted plans for creating public buildings in landscaped parks. The mid-part of the 25-storey tripartite facade is a U-shaped mass of austere light-toned granite over a high colonnade that forms the building's base and separates a front yard from the sidewalk.
To the left of the entrance, is a bas-relief medallion, Progress, a youth holding a torch and a winged globe; and the bas-relief Civic Pride, showing the female personification of the City receiving tribute from her citizens. To the right, is another bas-relief medallion, Prudence, a woman holding a mirror symbolizing reflection and wisdom; and the bas-relief Civic Duty, represented by a woman personifying the City, accompanied by a child holding the seal of the City and greeting a group of citizens, holding a scroll symbolic of the laws they are to obey.
The top portion of the building features a colonnade of Corinthian columns and pilasters. The 16-storey top, above the middle section of the building, consists of a set-back tiered lantern on top of a square base, flanked by four smaller pinnacle turrets, symbolizing the four boroughs joined to Manhattan. At the height of 177 m stands the 6 m high statue Civic Fame by Adolph A. Weinman, New York City's second largest statue after the Statue of Liberty. This building impressed Josif Stalin so much that the Moscow University main building (1949-1953) was later based on it -- as well as, in general, the whole grandiose public building style in the Soviet Union.
The building has an entrance to the Chambers Street subway station (1915), the first of many such connections to come. An archway leads through the mid-facade (a closed portion of Chambers St.) to the Police Headquarters across the landscaped Police Plaza.
The Municipal Building was designed a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1966.
National Register #72000879 (1972)