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Greenfield's Newly Renovated City Building

   

  History of City Building

  
bldg exterior.jpg (30053 bytes)After a two year period of construction the business of the city is back home again. In January of 2003 the various city offices began moving into their new facilities and in early February the public was invited to see what their patience and money bought  them. Here are several photos of some of the new offices along with a history of the city building. Thanks to Ron Coffey for the info and photos. click photos to enlarge.
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2nd floor lobby 3rd floor landing Greenfield Municipal Court
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Hon. Robert Judkins Jury Room Ron Coffey, Clerk's Office
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Probation Office County Clerk's Office Bailiff's Office
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County Law Library Mayor's Office City Clerk's Office
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Auditor-Treasurer Office City Council Chambers Safety-Service Office
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Police Department Community Development Income Tax Office
 

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HISTORY OF GREENFIELD CITY HALL

(Compiled from various sources, including A Greene Countrie Towne by F.R. Harris, Hills of Highland by Elsie Johnson Ayres and newspaper accounts.)

Greenfield’s City Hall is a symbol of the community and an important gathering place where many historic moments have occurred.

Long 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.

Gen. 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.

McArthur 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."

McArthur’s 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.

On June 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.

Encouraged 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.

Unfortunately, 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.

The need 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.

The first 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.

Located 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.

In 1874, 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.

Construction 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 other mementos.

Ed Dines 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.

Even in 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!

A 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.

The 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.

The new 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.

The 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.

Jail facilities were moved into the town hall before the Calaboose was torn down in 1892.

Many 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.

The 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 says:

GEORGE BRAXTON

1827-1942

Aged 115 years

SLAVE AND FREEMAN

CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN

Erected By

Citizens of Greenfield

1949

Another 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 serious damage.

In 1925 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 floor.

More 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.

For most 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.

The 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.

The 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.

As the 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.

Much of 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.

In August 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 Portsmouth, Ohio.

City and 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 visitors.

The 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. 

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