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The New City Hall and Tower

We publish to-day a highly artistic artotype of an original drawing of the City Hall by its author, Augustus Laver, the architect. The tower represented thereon is from the accepted design by a former commission, and is after the form and style of that of the first competitive design of twenty three years ago, but is not so tall by some hundred feet. Our illustration represents a tower four hundred and twenty feet in height, which cannot cost over $300,000, judging from the estimates in the then architect's office in 1888, and unearthed by City Attorney Cresswell. The bids for this tour were duly advertised in the city papers according to the New City Hall Act, and were legally received by the San Francisco Bridge Company. All of these bids, together with the scale and full size drawings and specifications, were on file in the architect's office, and should, according to law, be on file in duplicate in the office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors and also with the Secretary to the Board of New City Hall Commissioners. We trust this whole matter will be seriously considered and thoroughly investigated by the present commissioners.

It is high important to have the finishing touches to this grand design made perfect, and we therefore advise the Board to go slow. The building as it stands to-day in its half-finished condition presents to us a structure broad and bold in its conception, dignified in its architecture, yet no so severe as to belong to the past, nor yet in any way capricious, fanciful or ephemeral, but breathing in its every form a sympathy and relationship with the living spirit of our time and civilization. If this truly excellent commencement be marred by an incongruous finishing, we fear the people will not call blessed the men who bring about such an irremediable failure.

Architecturally speaking, our City Hall is today the most successful solution of a very difficult problem that our country presents. It overcomes without apparent effort the difficulties occasioned by the peculiar shape of the site, and hides its awkwardness by the ingenious diversity of its facades and outlines.

It would seem to us, and not without reason, that the man whose design as far carried out is so signally successful is more than likely to be the man who is best qualified to design the remainder. Besides this, Mr. Laver has, from his earliest advent into the profession, been intimately connected with the designing and carrying out of large buildings with domes, spires and towers, and has thereby acquired a training and experience in regard to such that no man, however naturally gifted, whose experience and training extend only to the limit of the middle-class buildings of a comparatively small and isolated city can cope with.

Much has been said and suggested lately by laymen and architects in regard to the City Hall that is puerile and ludicrous. A great many in a general way have criticized Mr. Laver's tower as a square tower on a circular base. This term "square" generally brings with it a sense of a very rigid and uninteresting form; but in our picture to-day the world can see without any suggestions from us how unfair and foolish such a criticism is. While the tower is to some extent square, there is not one trace of the stiff bareness which the word "square" suggests. Here the angles are absent, and all the corners are broken, not by mere fanciful devices, but by natural and useful parts, architecturally arranged, by which the eye is naturally carried from feature to feature away to the very topmost point of the structure, without any of the sudden shock by reason of change from one style of work to another which is so severely felt in examining some of the recent suggestions for the tower. Here the same style continues unbroken from base to lantern, unifying the whole structure, and giving the whole a stately dignity and completeness and proportion of parts that is sadly wanting in all the outside suggestions hitherto presented.

This magnificent pile, with its main facade of some eleven hundred feet in length of irregular walls, and its Larkin and McAllister-street fronts of 450 and 600 feet respectively, should receive the gravest consideration as to a tower and also as to an attic story, which, as may be seen from our picture, gives so much height and finish to the building, and which will supply such excellent accommodations for the courts, above the bustle and noise of the busy city. The proper finishing of our City hall is a matter of great interest to every citizen, not alone of to-day, but of the years to come, and it is to be hoped our Commissioners will not fail to appreciate the gravity of the case and act free from petty prejudice or favor in this matter, which is so important to us all.

San Francisco News Letter
August 5, 1893

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