Boston City Hall

Boston City Hall is the major public edifice associated with the social and economic rebirth of Boston that began in the 1960s.  As such, it is the symbol of the progressive thinking and bold initiative that transformed Boston in a “world-class” contemporary city.  Since its completion in 1969, City Hall has been the locus of numerous significant events and decisions in the city’s history, and it is the structure within which planning for much of Boston’s subsequent transformation occurred.

In 1962, a nationwide competition was conducted by the Government Center Commission of the City of Boston for the design of a new City Hall, the focal point of the entire downtown Boston, Government Center Urban Renewal Project.  The overall plan for the project, prepared by I.M. Pei & Partners, architects and city planners, was an undertaking of such tremendous scope that one like it has been attempted by no American city.  It transformed the blighted Scollay Square area into a modern Government Center containing sixty acres of striking contemporary buildings designed by outstanding architects.

Since its opening, City Hall has hosted hundreds of civic events involving the local neighborhood groups, school children, visiting dignitaries, musical performances, art exhibits, and celebrations associated with the country’s Bicentennial in 1976 and with Boston’s tercentennial in 1980.  Unlike many traditional, formal and perhaps less open, city halls, this building has accommodated a very wide range of community activities over the decades, both inside its grand lobby and outside on its stage.

In addition to its place in Boston’s history, City Hall is an internationally recognized landmark of modern architecture, whatever the controversy over its design.  It was the product of a nearly unprecedented (in America) open design competition for a major public building, and the resulting design launched its unknown architects – two of them immigrants – on a path to becoming a major national firm, an office that would produce building across the country and beyond, and one that would have an impact on Boston comparable to that of Charles Bulfinch or H.H. Richardson.  The selected design was submitted by the New York architectural firm of Kallmann, McKinnell and Knowles.  The jury of four nationally known architects and three Boston laymen termed the design impressive, functional, economical and harmonious with its surroundings.  The winning team then joined with two Boston firms, Campbell, Aldrich and Nulty (architects) and LeMessurier Association (consulting engineers), to form the architects and engineers for the Boston City Hall and to execute the design and supervise construction.

Excerpted from the Boston City Hall landmark petition and A Walking Tour of Boston City Hall guide.

Click here to download the official Walking Tour of Boston City Hall guide.