City Hall is a symbol of the community and an important
gathering place where many historic moments have
before the town hall was built, a provision was made for
its existence by General Duncan McArthur, the founder of
Greenfield. McArthur, a pioneer who surveyed this
territory in 1796, decided that the beautiful sloping
land on the west side of Paint Creek would make an
excellent location for a "Greene Countrie
Towne." McArthur donated a square for a courthouse
and jail, and also a lot for a burying ground.
McArthur called the town Greenfield, perhaps in honor of
the village of that name in Pennsylvania where he grew
up. He was born in Duchess County, New York on January
14, 1772 to parents who were natives of Scotland. The
family moved to Pennsylvania when Duncan was a boy, and
his memories of growing up there probably inspired his
decision to name Greenfield.
rose to prominence and eventually became governor of
Ohio and a member of Congress. He left home at 18 and,
according to Hills of Highland author Elsie J.
Ayres, "Without the aid of a single friend, without
education or wealth or the associations of society, so
essential to mental improvement, he step by step
advanced his way, a farmer boy, a packer, a private in
the army, a salt boiler, a hunter and trapper, a spy on
the frontier, a chain carrier, a surveyor, a member of
the legislature, and finally governor of his adopted
state." The author described him as
"physically a splendid specimen of manhood, six
feet in height and as straight as an arrow, hair and
eyes as black as night, complexion swarthy; his whole
frame perfectly developed and step as elastic and light
as a deer. Although some details of his character,
developed in the hard struggle for wealth, cannot be
presented for imitation, in his unity of purpose and of
effort he furnishes us with a noble example."
vision and sense of placement helped make Greenfield a
thriving community. By 1846 the town had a population of
nearly 2,000, and an effort was made to create a new
"McArthur County" from portions of Highland,
Fayette and Ross Counties, with Greenfield in the center
as county seat. Even though that effort ended in
failure, the village’s leaders felt that a gathering
place and community center was needed.
11, 1859 the council secured a lease on the public
square for 99 years, renewable forever. The plot of land
set aside by Duncan McArthur for a courthouse had its
title vested in the county commissioners. When the lease
was granted, the commissioners were Abraham Lowman,
William C. Conard and Philip Roush.
by the efforts of a group of young men known as the
"Shanghai Council" who seized control of the
local government at the elections and literally cleaned
up the streets and vacant lots of the village, the
citizens in 1860 approved a tax levy for the
construction of a town hall.
the Civil War intervened and diverted attention from the
town hall project. Although funds for the project had
been collected, the decision was made to use the money
to outfit Greenfield’s first military company when it
was learned that Fort Sumter had been fired upon.
President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers,
and a public meeting was held on the village square.
Within a short time, a number of Greenfield sons had
enlisted in Company K, 27th Regiment, O.V.I.
for a town hall and jail facilities continued to
escalate during the Civil War. In fact, the jail became
a top priority as the community sought to subdue growing
rowdyism. In 1864, council accepted William H. Gray’s
plans for a new building which would provide a jail plus
offices for use by the mayor, marshal and council, to be
used until a more commodious town hall could be
constructed. The building would be used until a proper
courthouse could be constructed at a later time.
mention of a council meeting in the new chambers is
found in the minutes of March 30, 1866. Mayor John
Eckman presided at the meeting, which was also attended
by councilmen A.J. Smart, A.G. Franklin, James Porter
and H.L. Dickey and recorder William McMurdie.
on the west end of the Park, facing Main Street (now
called Jefferson Street), the building was commonly
known as the Calaboose. The small 20-by-30-foot stone
building served its purpose as a jail for some time
after the town hall was built, providing inmates with a
view to the south. The Calaboose was finally torn down
in 1892 to make way for Midway Avenue (later renamed
Gen. Hull Place), which circles the town hall.
the town fathers turned their attention to the need for
a larger courthouse and authorized the sale of $15,000
in bonds to finance the project. James T. Cook of
Chillicothe was chosen as architect for the town hall.
His design was of high Victorian style, with windows of
segmental and semicircular arches, iron grillwork and a
lofty steeple holding the town clock.
began June 24, 1875 with the placing of the cornerstone.
Inside it was a time capsule containing a history of the
community, the names of early settlers, newspapers and
headed the construction committee, and the firm of
Rucker & Son handled and brick and stone work, with
Ira C. Baldwin responsible for the carpentry. McClelland
& Juvenile did the paint and glass work, Frank Hall
the plastering, and William St. Clair the slate, iron
and tin work.
the 19th century it was not unusual for projects to
exceed their estimated cost. To the surprise of nearly
everyone, the final price tag for the new town hall came
to $14,406.64 -- almost $600 under budget!
dedication ceremony was scheduled for July 4, 1876, but
the ceremony was postponed to avoid a conflict with the
U.S. centennial celebration that day in Hillsboro.
official dedication took place August 8, 1876 with the
mayor of Hillsboro presiding over the ceremony and a
host of state officials and dignitaries. One speaker
dedicated the town hall to "music, amusement and
recreation, to politics, public honor and public
virtue." At the end of the ceremony Ed Dines
presented the keys to Mayor Billy Eckman.
building was a symbol of civic pride and a popular
gathering place. Laid on a stone foundation, the
two-story building had an exterior of soft brick and
appealing architectural proportions.
entire upper floor of the building was a vast auditorium
which was utilized by theater groups, traveling shows,
musical organizations and civic groups. The lower floor
housed the municipal offices and council chambers.
facilities were moved into the town hall before the
Calaboose was torn down in 1892.
political "jollifications" and meetings were
conducted in the large auditorium, which was lighted by
huge chandeliers holding kerosene lamps. At one
political rally in the late 1800s the town hall nearly
met an untimely demise. One of the chandeliers fell to
the floor and burning kerosene splashed a fiery threat.
George Braxton, a former slave, removed his coat and
used it to smother the flames.
citizens of Greenfield, thankful for Braxton’s quick
thinking, took up a collection to buy him some new
clothing. Braxton, who escaped from slavery in Virginia
prior to the Civil War, had come to Greenfield via the
"Underground Railroad" to freedom. He liked
Greenfield so much that he decided to stay, and was well
respected throughout the community. A monument at the
Greenfield Cemetery marks the grave of Braxton, who was
reputed to be 115 years old when he died in 1942. It
threat to the town hall occurred March 21, 1921 when a
tornado passed through Greenfield, hurling debris
throughout the business district, including the west
lawn and fire escape. Fortunately the community escaped
an extensive remodeling took place to meet the changing
times and needs of the community. The brick exterior was
covered with stucco and art stone, and the iron
grillwork was removed form the top of the structure. The
old auditorium was no longer needed and was remodeled to
accommodate jail cells, council chambers and other
offices. A police officer’s room, public comfort
station and other municipal offices occupied the first
remodeling took place in 1949 during the community’s
sesquicentennial. At that time the Permastone exterior
was added, and apparently the jail facilities were
returned to the first floor.
of the past 50 years the second floor has been devoted
to the pursuit of justice. The Highland County Court
occupies a large portion of the second floor. Other
offices on the second floor are connected to law
enforcement activities, including the Highland County
Community Corrections Office and several police offices.
cornerstone of the building, which had been covered up
by a past remodeling project, was uncovered in the
1970s. The decade of the 1970s also marked the
restoration of the clock tower by Bob Todhunter and a
group of concerned citizens.
courtyard around city hall underwent a renovation in
1995 with landscaping and extensive concrete work, and a
war monument was erected by the Concerned Veterans of
Greenfield in 1996.
community’s thoughts turned to the bicentennial in
1999, the Citizens Building Renovation Committee was
formed to work for the renovation of the city hall. An
architect specializing in historic restoration projects
has developed a plan to restore the exterior to an
attractive appearance and rework the interior of the
building into a three-story plan that should meet the
city’s needs for the foreseeable future.
the groundwork has already been laid. Despite rumors to
the contrary, research revealed the deed to the property
was still in the hands of the county, just as the
history books said. On January 20, 1999 the county
commissioners deeded the property to the city of
Greenfield so that the ownership of the property will
not be an issue.
1999 the citizens of Greenfield approved a .125 percent
increase in the city income tax to finance the
renovation of the city building. Asbestos removal and
other site work took place in 2000, with the more
visible part of the renovation beginning in March 2001.
General contractor for the project was Portco from
county offices returned to Greenfield City Hall in
January 2003, and an open house was conducted February
1-2, 2003 to allow the community to see how the project
had turned out. Many positive comments were made by
renovation project allows Greenfield City Hall to
continue its rich legacy of service with improved
functionality and restored beauty, reflecting the
history and values of a community that is proud of its
past and looks toward a bright future.