One of the most outstanding architectural structures in Belfast is the magnificent City Hall. This is the civic building of the Belfast City Council. Located in Donegall Square, it faces north and effectively divides the commercial and business areas of the city centre.
Plans for the City Hall began in 1888 when Belfast was awarded city status by Queen Victoria, one of the principal reasons why there are so many references her in the structures and the history of the city. This was in recognition of Belfast’s rapid expansion and thriving linen, shipbuilding and engineering industries.
Construction began in 1898 under the supervision of architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas and was completed in 1906 at a cost of £369,000. Local firms H&J Martin and WH Stephens were among the companies involved in construction.
The city hall in Durban, South Africa is almost an exact replica of Belfast’s City Hall. It was built in 1910 and designed by Stanley G. Hudson, who was inspired by the Belfast design. The Port of Liverpool Building, designed by Arnold Thornley and completed in 1913, is another very close relative in terms of design.
On August 1st, 2006, the city hall celebrated its centenary with a “Century of Memories” exhibition and family picnic day. The grounds of City Hall are popular for relaxation during the summer. In the background are the dome at Victoria Square and the Belfast Wheel.
The exterior is built mainly from Portland Stone and is in the Baroque Revival style. It covers an area of one and a half acres and has an enclosed courtyard.
Featuring towers at each of the four corners, with a lantern-crowned 173 ft (53 m) copper dome in the centre, the City Hall dominates the city centre skyline. As with other Victorian buildings in the city centre, the City Hall’s copper-coated domes are a distinctive green.
The interior has a number of notable features including The Porte-Cochère and Grand Entrance, The Grand Staircase, The Reception Room and The Great Hall. The latter was destroyed during the Belfast Blitz and subsequently rebuilt.
The gardens surrounding the City Hall are a popular with office workers taking their lunch in the summer months, as well as tourists and teenagers gathering in their dozens to enjoy the green. The Garden of Remembrance and Cenotaph are located on the extensive grounds of City Hall. Various statues stand in the grounds, including one of Queen Victoria by Sir Thomas Brock. Brock also designed the marble figure of Thane, in memorial to the victims of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The ship was built in Harland and Wolff’s shipyard located in the east of the city. The monument was originally located at the front gate.
Many of the areas in City Hall interior are accessible to the public, including some of the state rooms. However, as this is functioning public civil service building, many of the upper floors are closed to the public.