CHICAGO’S SEVEN CITY HALLS

The Loop

On May 1 and 2, 1865, more than 7,000 mourners per hour came through the rotunda of the Chicago City Hall-County Building to pay their respects as Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state. A special funeral train carrying Lincoln’s coffin stopped in Chicago and several other cities on its way to his burial place in Springfield, Illinois. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

Since its founding in 1837, Chicago’s city business has been conducted in seven different city halls – most of which were located on the site of the current City Hall-County Building.

A walk through the history of Chicago’s city halls offers a glimpse into some of the city’s – and in one case, the nation’s – most dramatic moments.

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Chicago City Hall #1 – Saloon Building
In 1837, as the city charter was being developed, Chicago’s leading citizens leased space in the Saloon Building at the southeast corner of Lake and Clark Streets. The word “saloon” at that time did not imply so much a tavern as a spacious meeting hall; it derived from the French word “salon.” Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

Chicago City Hall #2 – Widow Chapman’s Building
By 1842, the Saloon Building lease had expired, and city business was conducted in a building owned by the Widow Chapman, at the corner of LaSalle and Randolph Streets. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

Chicago City Hall #3 – Old Market Hall
In 1848, the city constructed its first dedicated city hall building, Old Market Hall. It was located in the middle of State Street, between Randolph and Lake Streets, with offices on the second floor and market stalls at street level. It was designed by John Van Osdel and cost $11,070 to construct.Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

Chicago City Hall #4 – City Hall-County Building
In 1853, a new city hall building was constructed on the block bounded by LaSalle, Washington, Clark, and Randolph Streets – its location today. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

Chicago City Hall #4 – City Hall-County Building
As the city grew rapidly through the 1850s, the City Hall-County Building was expanded with several additions, including a third floor, a dome, and east and west wings. The Great Fire of 1871 destroyed this building. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

Chicago City Hall #5 – The Old Rookery
The city mobilized quickly to build a new city hall around an old elevated water tank at Dearborn and LaSalle Streets, and moved in by 1873. A public library was housed inside the old tank. This building was intended to be temporary; bids were put out for a larger, permanent City Hall and County building. But many years would go by before that building would be ready. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

City Hall #6 – The Boondoggle
1885 – It wasn’t officially called The Boondoggle, but this city hall took much longer to build than expected; it cost more than planned, and it was out of date, overcrowded, and poorly suited to its use by the time it was completed. Plans for a more functional building were begun almost immediately. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

City Hall #7 – Holabird & Roche, 1910
The City Hall with the longest tenure is the current City Hall-County Building, completed in 1910 and dedicated in 1911. Designed by Holabird & Roche and built on the site of the 1853 city hall, it was the first building designed in accordance with the Burnham plan for Chicago. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum