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Delaware City Hall work reveals History

Delaware City Hall work reveals
fire pole, plaster reliefs

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Delaware News
Paul Comstock

Delaware City Hall - Renovation - History
Workers uncovered some of the original 1903s-era decorative features, including plaster reliefs along the ceiling of the original courtroom and council meeting space. The city will incorporate some of the period designs and artwork into the renovated second-floor space. Courtesy Of The City of Delaware

Delaware’s City Hall, 1 S. Sandusky St., housed the city fire department from its opening in 1937 until firefighters moved out and the building was renovated in the 1970s. 

Now the building is in the final stages of a $1.3 million renovation project. 

Workers discovered a hole that housed a brass pole – which firefighters used to slide down to trucks on the first floor – still was there when they removed a ceiling covering, said Lee Yoakum, city community affairs coordinator. 

The construction crew made another find when it removed the walls of what was the original courtroom and council meeting space: decorative plaster reliefs along the ceiling. 

“We were thrilled to see some of City Hall’s past – and in color,” Yoakum said. 

“That was the neatest thing, because the only history is back-and-white photos. To see the vibrant blues and creams was a little like stepping back to the 1930s. 

“We believe those features were covered over in the 1970s when the fire department moved out and the interior was renovated.”   

Now that the designs have been discovered, the city hopes to incorporate some of the artwork into the renovated second-floor space, he said. 

Work on the renovation began at City Hall in July and is expected to be finished in late January, Yoakum said. 

The modifications will improve access, security and the building’s work spaces, he said. 

The renovations will leave the building’s south-side entrance as the only one open to the public. The handicapped-accessible entrance will lead into a newly created lobby, Yoakum said. 

“How residents and visitors navigate the building, pay their bills, meet with staff and attend public meetings is a critical part of this, as is ensuring a municipal building that is safe and secure,” Assistant City Manager Kyle Kridler said earlier.

Kridler is leading the project. 

The building’s doors on William and Sandusky streets – each at the top of a tall set of steps – will remain despite being largely unused, Yoakum said. The William Street entrance could be used by employees. The Sandusky Street entrance opens to a hallway that could be used for ceremonies or other events, he said. 

Inside the building, a number of walls will be removed or reconfigured to update the work environment, he added.   

Yoakum said City Hall’s construction was a project of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) a U.S. New Deal agency created to provide public works jobs during the Great Depression.   

It was built on the site of another City Hall constructed in 1880 and destroyed by a fire in 1934. 

Former city police chief Dick Browning wrote a history of the 1880 building, which noted the upper floor contained an opera house with a domed ceiling and chandeliers. 

The 1880 building also included a stable that housed the fire department’s horses. 

When it opened, the structure was equipped with hundreds of lights that burned natural gas, Browning wrote. They were replaced by electric lights in 1897. 

Lincoln Construction, Columbus, is the main contractor for the current City Hall renovations. 

When the project is complete, the building will house about 40 employees working in five departments, Yoakum said. 

The finance department, which includes income tax and utility billing, moved to space at Mingo Park for the duration of the project. 

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