Manhattan Municipal Building
Backstory and Context
In the late 1800s, though the city of New York had performed admirably in providing civic services and space for its government branches, New York City’s City Hall had run out of space for additional government functions that needed to be carried out for the city. Because of this, many government agencies had to rent out office space in numerous other buildings spread out across the city. In response to this, an effort was formed in 1888 to commission a design for a building to house these other government agencies. It took until 1908 to select a design for the building, but construction on the Manhattan Municipal Building began in 1909, and the famed architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White was commissioned to design and build the new office space.
Construction on the building took a significant amount of time due to the sheer size of the building, but in 1915, the Manhattan Municipal Building was completed. Despite the official opening scheduled for 1915, government agencies began moving into the building as early as January 1913. By 1916, almost all of the offices were occupied by government agencies, and their services were open and available to the public. The Manhattan Municipal Building was hugely successful, and on February 1, 1966, it was designated a New York City Landmark. Shortly after that on October 18th of 1972, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the Manhattan Municipal Building continues to serve the citizens of Manhattan.
There is a New York City government bookstore which sells NYC-themed souvenirs, t-shirts, knick-knacks and books. You can also purchase your marriage license here and return a day or two later for the ceremony to be performed. While you are there, check out the arched brick ceilings on the Brooklyn Bridge side of the building's street level. These were designed and built by Rafael Guastavino, famous for his arched ceilings, also seen in Grand Central's corridors to the side of the main room.
As you walk around the exterior of the building, look up to see Audrey Munson, "America's First Supermodel." The statue atop the Manhattan Municipal Building, known as "Civic Fame" was sculpted by Adolf Alexander Weinman, using Miss Munson as his model. She was a woman so beautiful her image can be seen all over Manhattan, as well as many other locations in the U.S.