Keep Oakland Beautiful Point of Interest: Oakland City Hall.

Keep Oakland Beautiful Points of Interest remind us of how interesting and beautiful Oakland is and why we should care about protecting it.

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The seat of our city government, Oakland City Hall, is 100 years old. Completed in 1914, the building held two distinctions at that time: it was the first government high-rise in the United States and, at a height of 319 feet, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River (today, it’s only the eighth-tallest building in Oakland – what a difference a century makes!).

The building’s exterior is faced with white granite and terra cotta and its architectural style is beaux-arts. This French style includes characteristics such as a flat roof; arched windows; a hierarchy of spaces, from the grandeur of the Mayor’s office to small, utilitarian offices; classical details; and statues, sculpture, and artwork coordinated in a theme that reinforces the building’s identity.

From a distance, Oakland City Hall looks like a three-section wedding cake. In fact, it was nicknamed ‘Mayor Mott’s Wedding Cake’ after then Mayor Frank Mott, who played a key role in funding the building’s construction and who was married in 1911, the year construction on Oakland City Hall began.

At the bottom of the building is a broad, three-story base that includes the Mayor’s office, city council chambers, and a police station. On top of this pedestal sits a more slender, flat roofed, ten-story office tower. This is, in turn, capped with a two-story podium with a 91-foot ornamental clock tower. The clock tower was donated by former mayor Dr. Samuel Merritt.

Oakland City Hall suffered significant damage as a result of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that struck just before the start of the A’s-Giants World Series game at Candlestick Park, knocking down an upper section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, collapsing the Cypress Structure of I-880 in Oakland, and causing 63 deaths). After considering demolishing the old building and replacing it with a modern one, the city leadership decided to retrofit Oakland City Hall, at a cost of $80 million, keeping its historical presence alive into the 21st century. I, for one, am glad they did.

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Located at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in the heart of downtown, Oakland City Hall is still majestic, offering a window into the history of our last century.

Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.

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