Minneapolis City Hall

Minneapolis City Hall, which together with the adjoining Hennepin County Courthouse, was designed in 1888 by the architectural firm of Long and Kees. And like City Hall, many of their other buildings still dotting the downtown area also reflect the Richardsonian-Romanesque style, including the  Lumber Exchange Building (1885), the Hennepin Center for the Arts (1888; now part of the Cowles Center), and the Flour Exchange Building (1892). The City Hall building, which replaced an earlier building (1873-1912) near the old intersection between  Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Avenue, has mainly served as local government offices since it was built. Today, it is 60% occupied by the city and 40% by Hennepin County. The building’s design, based upon  Henry Hobson Richardson’s Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh, also bears a striking resemblance to the City Hall buildings in Cincinnati and Toronto.

The first schoolhouse in Minneapolis built west of the Mississippi River was demolished to make way for the new City Hall. The groundbreaking took place in 1889, with construction officially completed until 1906. Once complete, the building claimed to have the world’s largest 4-faced chiming clock. In fact, at 24′ 6″, the faces are actually 18″ wider than those of the  Great Clock in London, which houses Big Ben. The tower housing the clock, which reaches a height of 345 feet, was also the tallest structure in the city until the Foshay Tower was built in the 1920s. And when the building’s copper roof was installed, it was said to be the largest in the country, at about 180,000 pounds. A 15-bell chime in the clock tower is also played regularly, with public concerts provided regularly at noon on holidays and Fridays during warm months.

Unlike most other buildings downtown, there are not any skyways connecting City Hall to the rest of the city. Since the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, exterior alterations are not allowed. Therefore, pedestrian tunnels were constructed instead, connecting the building to the Hennepin County Government Center under 5th Street and to the U.S. Courthouse under 4th Street. Inside the building, there is a large 5-story rotunda  which includes a large sculpture entitled “Father of Waters” (1906) by the American sculptor Larkin Goldsmith Mead, who lived in Florence, Italy at the time. According to legend, rubbing his big toe is supposed to bring good luck.

  • Viewed: many times since the 1970s
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1974

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