City Hall was designed by local architect Charles Colton.  This building is typical of the Romanesque and Gothic styles popularized by H.H. Richardson during this period.  The style is highlighted by thick and robust rock-faced walls with turrets and deep-set windows.  The peaks and massive arches are also characteristic; note the sharp, pitched roofs, the arcaded entrance porch and rusticated stone work. 

Built of Onondaga limestone, it stands on the site of the old market hall, and at one point contained the bell from that building in its 165-foot bell tower.  In early Syracuse history, the bell was rung as a fire alarm.  The reward of one dollar per alarm resulted in many false alarms. 

A photo of the City Hall bell

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Market Hall was built in 1845 on this site.  Goods were sold on the first floor and village offices were on the second.  It became City Hall in 1848.  The 5,000 pound bell in its tower alerted the fire stations, as well as the general public, in the event of a fire. 

First City Hall with the bell on the front porch

First City Hall with the bell in the tower

In 1889, when the larger, limestone City Hall we see today was being built, the architect Charles Colter refused to include a belfry in his plans.  He argued that fire bells were a thing of the past, and that the new taller City Hall tower would need a 10,000 pound bell.  Besides, he wanted the tower to be an observation space, from which one could view the cityscape.  Citizens felt a fire bell was important for the safety of the city.  An argument raged.  In the end, Colter lost and a 10,000 pound fire bell was included in the new City Hall.  No longer needed as a fire alarm in the 1940’s, the bell was removed and melted down to provide needed metal in the city’s contribution to the war effort.  A new chimes system was installed during Mayor Stephanie Miner’s administration in 2010.