City hall

City hall

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In local government
Local government
Local government refers collectively to administrative authorities over areas that are smaller than a state.The term is used to contrast with offices at nation-state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or federal government...

, a city hall, town hall or (more rarely) a municipal building or civic centre, is the chief administrative
Administration (government)
The term administration, as used in the context of government, differs according to jurisdiction.-United States:In United States usage, the term refers to the executive branch under a specific president , for example: the "Barack Obama administration." It can also mean an executive branch agency...

 building of a city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...


town or other municipality. It usually houses the city
City council
A city council or town council is the legislative body that governs a city, town, municipality or local government area.-Australia & NZ:Because of the differences in legislation between the States, the exact definition of a City Council varies...

 or town council
Town council
A town council is a democratically elected form of government for small municipalities or civil parishes. A council may serve as both the representative and executive branch....

, its associated departments, and their employees. It also usually functions as the base of the mayor
Mayor
In many countries, a Mayor is the highest ranking officer in the municipal government of a town or a large urban city....

 of a city, town, borough
Borough
A borough is an administrative division in various countries. In principle, the term borough designates a self-governing township although, in practice, official use of the term varies widely....

, or county
County
A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain modern nations. Historically in mainland Europe, the original French term, comté, and its equivalents in other languages denoted a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain...

.

By convention, until the mid 19th-century, a single large open chamber (or 'hall') formed an integral part of the building housing the council. The hall may be used for council meetings and other significant events. This large chamber, the 'town hall', (and its later variant 'city hall') has become synonymous with the whole building, and with the administrative body housed in it. The terms 'council chambers', 'municipal building' or variants may be used locally in preference to 'town hall' if no such large hall is present within the building. Sometimes, like Birmingham Town Hall
Birmingham Town Hall
Birmingham Town Hall is a Grade I listed concert and meeting venue in Victoria Square, Birmingham, England. It was created as a home for the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival established in 1784, the purpose of which was to raise funds for the General Hospital, after St Philip's Church became...

 in the English Midlands
English Midlands
The Midlands, or the English Midlands, is the traditional name for the area comprising central England that broadly corresponds to the early medieval Kingdom of Mercia. It borders Southern England, Northern England, East Anglia and Wales. Its largest city is Birmingham, and it was an important...

, municipal buildings act as a public social venue and as a building completely separate from the administrative centre; Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

 uses the Council House
Council House, Birmingham
Birmingham City Council House in Birmingham, England is the home of Birmingham City Council. It provides office accommodation for both employed council officers, including the Chief Executive, and elected council members, plus the council chamber, Lord Mayor's Suite, committee rooms and a large and...

 for local governance.

The local government may endeavour to use the townhall building to promote and enhance the quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

 of the community. In many cases, "'town halls' serve not only as buildings for government functions, but also have facilities for various civic and cultural activities. These may include art shows, stage performances, exhibits and festivals. Modern town halls or "civic centres" are often designed with a great variety and flexibility of purpose in mind.

As symbols of local government, city and town halls have distinctive architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

, and the buildings may have great historical significance - for example the Guildhall, London
Guildhall, London
The Guildhall is a building in the City of London, off Gresham and Basinghall streets, in the wards of Bassishaw and Cheap. It has been used as a town hall for several hundred years, and is still the ceremonial and administrative centre of the City of London and its Corporation...

. City hall buildings may also serve as cultural icon
Cultural icon
A cultural icon can be a symbol, logo, picture, name, face, person, building or other image that is readily recognized and generally represents an object or concept with great cultural significance to a wide cultural group...

s that symbolize their cities as is the case with Toronto City Hall
Toronto City Hall
The City Hall of Toronto, Ontario, Canada is the home of the city's municipal government and one of its most distinctive landmarks. Designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell and landscape architect Richard Strong, and engineered by Hannskarl Bandel, the building opened in 1965...

, Brussels Town Hall
Brussels Town Hall
The Town Hall of the City of Brussels is a Gothic building from the Middle Ages. It is located on the famous Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium....

, Philadelphia City Hall
Philadelphia City Hall
Philadelphia City Hall is the house of government for the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At , including the statue, it is the world's second-tallest masonry building, only shorter than Mole Antonelliana in Turin...

, and Los Angeles City Hall
Los Angeles City Hall
Los Angeles City Hall, completed 1928, is the center of the government of the city of Los Angeles, California, and houses the mayor's office and the meeting chambers and offices of the Los Angeles City Council...

, that have been featured in Hollywood films.

Nomenclature


The term "town hall" is a general one, often applied without regard to whether the building serves or served a town or a city. This is generally the case in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 (with examples such as Manchester Town Hall
Manchester Town Hall
Manchester Town Hall is a Victorian-era, Neo-gothic municipal building in Manchester, England. The building functions as the ceremonial headquarters of Manchester City Council and houses a number of local government departments....

 in the city of Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

) and in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 (with Sydney Town Hall
Sydney Town Hall
The Sydney Town Hall is a landmark sandstone building located in the heart of Sydney. It stands opposite the Queen Victoria Building and alongside St Andrew's Cathedral...

 in the city of Sydney
Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

). This is the case in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

, and many Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 countries.

English-speakers in some regions use the term "city hall" to designate the council offices of a municipality
Municipality
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

 of city status
City status
City status is the national recognition of an area as a city. Specifically, "city status" may refer to:*City rights in the Low Countries*City status in Ireland*City status in the United Kingdom*City status in the United States of America...

. This is the case in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, where a distinction is made between city halls and town halls. It is also the case with Brisbane City Hall
Brisbane City Hall
Brisbane City Hall, in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, is the seat of the Brisbane City Council. It is located adjacent to King George Square, where the rectangular City Hall has its main entrance. The City Hall also has frontages and entrances in both Ann Street and Adelaide Street...

 in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and Sheffield City Hall
Sheffield City Hall
Sheffield City Hall is a Grade II* listed building in Sheffield, England, containing several venues, ranging from the Oval Concert Hall which seats over 2,000 people to a ballroom featuring a sprung dance floor...

 in England, which houses a concert hall and ballroom.

The Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

 sums up the generic terms:
  • town hall: "A large hall used for the transaction of the public business of a town, the holding of a court of justice, assemblies, entertainments, etc.; the great hall of the town-house or municipal building; now very commonly applied to the whole building"
  • city hall: "chiefly N. Amer., the chief municipal offices of a city; hence, the municipal officers collectively"


County Council
County council
A county council is the elected administrative body governing an area known as a county. This term has slightly different meanings in different countries.-United Kingdom:...

 administrations in parts of England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

 generally operate from a base in a building called, by analogy, a "County Hall
County Hall
A county hall or shire hall is usual name given to a building housing a county's administration. The location of the county hall has usually denoted the county town, and as county halls have moved it has also been considered that the county town has moved, for example when Derbyshire County Council...

" or "Shire Hall". In Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, local government in larger cities operates from the "City Chambers
City Chambers
City Chambers can refer to:*Dundee City Chambers*Dunfermline City Chambers*Edinburgh City Chambers*Glasgow City Chambers...

".

Elsewhere in English-speaking countries, other names are occasionally used. In London, the official headquarters of administration of the City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 retains its Anglo-Saxon name, the Guildhall
Guildhall, London
The Guildhall is a building in the City of London, off Gresham and Basinghall streets, in the wards of Bassishaw and Cheap. It has been used as a town hall for several hundred years, and is still the ceremonial and administrative centre of the City of London and its Corporation...

, signifying a place where taxes were paid. In Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, England, Liverpool Town Hall
Liverpool Town Hall
Liverpool Town Hall stands in High Street at its junction with Dale Street, Castle Street, and Water Street in Liverpool, Merseyside, England. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building, described in the National Heritage List for England as "one of the finest...

 is the name given to the official residence of the City's Lord Mayor.

History


Large halls called basilica
Basilica
The Latin word basilica , was originally used to describe a Roman public building, usually located in the forum of a Roman town. Public basilicas began to appear in Hellenistic cities in the 2nd century BC.The term was also applied to buildings used for religious purposes...

s were used in Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 for the administration of justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

, as meeting
Meeting
In a meeting, two or more people come together to discuss one or more topics, often in a formal setting.- Definitions :An act or process of coming together as an assembly for a common purpose....

 places, and for trade
Trade
Trade is the transfer of ownership of goods and services from one person or entity to another. Trade is sometimes loosely called commerce or financial transaction or barter. A network that allows trade is called a market. The original form of trade was barter, the direct exchange of goods and...

.

In the Early Medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 period, the hall
Great hall
A great hall is the main room of a royal palace, nobleman's castle or a large manor house in the Middle Ages, and in the country houses of the 16th and early 17th centuries. At that time the word great simply meant big, and had not acquired its modern connotations of excellence...

, a single large open chamber, was the main, and sometimes only room of the home of a feudal lord. There the lord lived with his family and retinue, ate, slept and administered rule and justice. Activities in the hall played an essential role in the functioning of the feudal manor, the administrative unit of society. As manorial dwellings developed into manor house
Manor house
A manor house is a country house that historically formed the administrative centre of a manor, the lowest unit of territorial organisation in the feudal system in Europe. The term is applied to country houses that belonged to the gentry and other grand stately homes...

s, castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

s and palace
Palace
A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. In many parts of Europe, the...

s, the hall, or "great hall" as it was often termed, remained an essential unit within the architectural complex.

The modern concept of the town hall developed with the development of local or regional government. Cities administered by a group of elected or chosen representatives, rather than by a lord or princely ruler, required a place for their council to meet. The Cologne City Hall
Cologne City Hall
The City Hall is a historical building in Cologne, western Germany, located off Hohe Straße in the district of Innenstadt, set between the two squares of Rathausplatz and Alter Markt. It houses part of the city government, including the city council and offices of the Lord Mayor. It is...

 of 1135 is a prominent example for self-gained municipal autonomy of Medieval cities. The Palazzo Pubblico
Palazzo Pubblico
The Palazzo Pubblico is a palace in Siena, Tuscany, central Italy. Construction began in 1297 and its original purpose was to house the republican government, consisting of the Podestà and Council of Nine....

 of the Republic of Siena
Republic of Siena
The Republic of Siena , was a state originating from the city of Siena in Tuscany, Central Italy.It existed for over four hundreds years, from the late 11th century until the year 1555, when was defeated by the rival Duchy of Florence in alliance with the Spanish crown...

 and the Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany...

 of the Republic of Florence
Republic of Florence
The Republic of Florence , or the Florentine Republic, was a city-state that was centered on the city of Florence, located in modern Tuscany, Italy. The republic was founded in 1115, when the Florentine people rebelled against the Margraviate of Tuscany upon Margravine Matilda's death. The...

, both town halls, date from 1297 and 1299 respectively. In each case the large, fortified building comprises a large meeting hall and numerous administrative chambers. Both buildings are topped by very tall towers. Both buildings have ancient timepieces by which the people of the town can regulate their lives. Both buildings have facilities for the storage of documents and references that pertain to the city's administration. These features: a hall, a tower and a clock, as well as administrative chambers and an archive or muniment
Muniment
A Muniment or Muniment of Title is a legal term for a document, or other evidence, that indicates ownership of an asset. The word is derived from munimentum, the Latin word for a defensive fortification...

 room became the standard features of town halls across Europe. Brussels Town Hall
Brussels Town Hall
The Town Hall of the City of Brussels is a Gothic building from the Middle Ages. It is located on the famous Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium....

 of the 15th century, with its 96 metres (315 ft) tower, is one of the grandest examples of the medieval era, serving as a model for 19th-century town halls such as the Rathaus, Vienna.

During the 19th century town hall buildings often included "reading rooms" to provide free education to the public, and it eventually became customary for the town or city council to establish and maintain a library
Library
In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...

 as part of its service to the community. The grand chamber or meeting place, the "town hall" itself, became a place for receptions, banquets, balls and public entertainment. Town halls, particularly during the 19th century, were often equipped with large pipe organ
Pipe organ
The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass...

s to facilitate public recitals.

In the 20th century town halls, as venues, have served the public as places for voting, examinations, vaccinations, relief in times of disaster and the posting lists of war casualties, as well as for the more usual civil functions, festivities and entertainments. Local councils have tended increasingly to remove administrative functions into modern offices. Where new premises are designed and constructed to house local governments, the concepts and functions of administrative council offices and of a civic town hall become separated.

Language


English-speakers can use the term "city hall" by metonymy
Metonymy
Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept...

 to mean "municipal government" or government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 in general, as in the axiom
Axiom
In traditional logic, an axiom or postulate is a proposition that is not proven or demonstrated but considered either to be self-evident or to define and delimit the realm of analysis. In other words, an axiom is a logical statement that is assumed to be true...

 "You can't fight city hall". "Town hall" tends to have less formal connotations (cf. Town meeting
Town meeting
A town meeting is a form of direct democratic rule, used primarily in portions of the United States since the 17th century, in which most or all the members of a community come together to legislate policy and budgets for local government....

).

See also

  • List of city and town halls
  • Royal Palace of Amsterdam
    Royal Palace (Amsterdam)
    The Royal Palace in Amsterdam is one of three palaces in the Netherlands which is at the disposal of Queen Beatrix by Act of Parliament. The palace was built as city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century. The building became the royal palace of king Louis Napoleon and later...

     (was a town hall and for a long time the largest (public) administrative building in Europe
    Europe
    Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

    )
  • Town meeting
    Town meeting
    A town meeting is a form of direct democratic rule, used primarily in portions of the United States since the 17th century, in which most or all the members of a community come together to legislate policy and budgets for local government....


External links