Old City Hall (District of Columbia Court of Appeals)

City Hall was the first public building that the Federal government erected for the District of Columbia.

It was begun in 1820, after designs by architect George Hadfield, but construction proceeded fitfully because of chronic under funding of the local government. Unlike the major federal buildings, which were built of stone, City Hall was constructed economically of brick with a stucco facing.

By 1822, the central section was complete, and occupied by the mayor and registrar. The east wing was completed in 1826, but the west wing not until 1849-50. During the period before the Civil War, trials of abolitionists and Underground Railroad participants occurred here. In 1863, the District’s newly formed Supreme Court took up residence in the building.

Ten years later, it expanded to occupy the entire structure as Congress assumed control. From 1881-83, the building was enlarged on its north side, and in 1892, a brick ventilating tower similar to those on the Capitol grounds was added just to the west of the building. Architect of the Capitol Edward Clark oversaw both projects. By the early 20th century, the stucco facades had deteriorated to such an extent that in 1916-18, the entire building was refaced in limestone, and the interior was substantially rebuilt with new courtrooms. While the new facades followed the original design closely, some changes were made including removal of the 1883 north portico. Architect of the Capitol Eliott Woods was responsible for the work.

National Historic Landmark designation December 19, 1960
DC listing November 8, 1964
National Register listing October 15, 1966
HABS DC-41
DC ownership

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451 Indiana Avenue, NW