City Hall of Bay City
Completed in 1897 and still in use.
301 Washington Avenue - Bay City (2003, updated 2005.)
Built during the period of 1894-97, this landmark has endured as Bay City's crowning jewel.
The leaders who planned and built this large majestic structure believed the city was destined to become a community of over 100,000 citizens. Their expectations were based on sound reasoning at the time -- the population of the city had grown from village of about 1,600 in 1860 to a city with over 35,000 in only three decades. (West Bay City was still a separate community at this time -- the two didn't merge until 1905.)
Expectations for the city were high -- while the lumbering industry sparked the initial growth, the city (and, surrounding area) had a broad industrial base. The area was thriving with salt manufacturing, shipbuilding, coal mining, locomotive crane manufacturing, sugar beets and smaller industries. The city's downtown district had a fine mix of businesses and merchants serving large residential neighborhoods to the east and south of downtown.
It was a time of great excitement, anticipation and confidence. The old city hall on Saginaw Street (e.s. of street bet. Center & Fifth) was too small and wholefully inadequate -- it was time to build a new one.
Until this time the city pretty much followed the original platting plans of the Saginaw Bay Company that were laided out in 1837 for the village of Lower Saginaw (Bay City) when the area was still a wilderness. The planning committee for the new city hall was not constrained by the old platting plan. They considered the corner of Center and Jefferson, and a spot on Washington between Fourth and Fifth, but ultimately decided not to build in the heart of the downtown area. Instead they chose the north east corner of Washington Avenue and Eight Street. This was the natural direction in which growth of the downtown area would take place. There was no room west or north because of the Saginaw River, and to the east was populated by residential homes.
William H. Phillips, Grand Master of the Free Masons of Michigan, had the honor of laying the corner stone.
Alderman Kroeucke is credited as the individual who marshalled support for the location of the new new City Hall.
Leverett A. Pratt and Walter Koeppe, a local architectural firm, designed the building. Thier work was known and respected for the many other fine structures they constructed in the community, that included several church buildings and the Sage Library. Pratt initially started in the business in 1872 and Koeppe partnered with him in 1880.
Henry Weber and Christopher Kircher, who owned a local construction firm, erected the building. Other contractors included the Bay City Stone Company (sandstone), John H. Holzes (mason work), Valley Stone Co. (foundation), Tennant and Bate (carved stone), and Foole and Hart (tile roof).
During its construction, Robbie Waldo, a 12 year old boy laborer fell from the roof and died from his injuries.
As could be imagined, citizens of the community were aroused with excitement and full of pride when it finally opened on March 22, 1897. On that day Mayor Hamilton M. Wright declared,
"... on the occasion of the first formal occupation of our new City Hall, I ask your permission to make a few remarks concerning this beautiful structure, a gem of its kind, a wonder of convenience and adaptation to public needs, unsurpassed in its conception, unequaled in its execution, a monument of the public spirit characteristic of Bay City, and in which all its citizens should take a just pride."
Mayor Hamilton's words ring true yet today. City Hall remains a precious landmark of this community and it's heritage. It withstood the threat of those who proposed to demolish it during the 1970s and replace it a modern and more economical structure. Fortunately, the majority of community leaders understood the historical value of the building and wouldn't let that happen. The city moved forward with a multi-million dollar renovation project. John T. Meyer of the firm John T. Meyer/Wigen, Tincknell and Associates, Inc. was hired to supervise the project.
Today, this gem from the past is a living shrine reminding of Bay City's rich history. The bells bellow each day to that effect, and the large clocks that face each direction continue to mark the time as the city progresses into the 21st Century.
Pictorial of City Hall