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