Springfield Municipal Group

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Springfield Municipal Group, with Symphony Hall to the left and City Hall to the right of the Campanile tower

The Municipal Group of Springfield, Massachusetts is a collection of three prominent municipal buildings in the city's Metro Center district. Consisting of a concert hall, City Hall, and a 300-foot (91 m) clocktower, the Group is a center of government and culture in the city.

Layout[edit]

Bounded by Court and Pynchon Streets, East Columbus Ave, and City Hall Place, the Municipal Group consists of two Greek Revival buildings which house City Hall and Symphony Hall, originally built as the Municipal Auditorium. Symphony Hall is located on the south end of the complex. Between the two is the 300-foot (91 m) Italianate Campanile clock tower. With a carillon of twelve bells, it plays sixteen notes of Handel's Messiah. The face of the clock is fourteen feet in diameter. When originally built, the clock and elevator were powered by water.

The Municipal Group looks out onto Court Square and the city's Old First Church.

History[edit]

Old City Hall, shortly before it burned down

In 1905, Springfield's first city hall was destroyed by fire. According to legend a monkey upended a kerosene lamp, which ultimately engulfed the building in flames. The city, at the time an industrial powerhouse in New England, financed construction of a grand municipal complex.

During construction, the clocktower was attacked by an anarchist bomb. However, the thick walls were not disturbed by the truck bomb. Completed in 1913, Former Mayor John A. Denison and President William Howard Taft officiated the opening ceremonies. On Dec. 8, 1913, as Taft dedicated the Springfield Municipal Group as "one of the most distinctive civic centers in the United States, and indeed the world."

Over the years, the Municipal Group came to represent the city itself as its most identifiable landmark. Following the end of each of the World Wars, the carillon of bells tolled before jubilant crowds. Due to a legal height restriction in Springfield imposed by the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1908, the Campanile remained the tallest structure in the city until 1973 when Bay State West (now called Tower Square) was built. Its views would remain largely unobstructed until the construction of Monarch Place in 1987.

Over time, as the city's fortunes deteriorated, so did the Municipal Group. Their age made them notoriously expensive to heat and cool. Symphony Hall remained in comparatively good shape, due to the money coming in from performances. However, City Hall and especially the Campanile languished. Sporadic renovations barely would keep City Hall operable. The aging electrical system in the Campanile silenced the bells and structural instability closed it off. The time on each of the clock's faces was rarely correct. Falling debris required officials to constantly widen the area off-limits to passers-by. The tower stood in danger of collapse.

In 2006, the city's Finance Control Board authorized a new capital investment plan, which included money for renovate the entire Municipal Group complex, mostly prominently the Campanile. The improving finances of the city permitted the Control Board to issue bonds to finance the SMG's portion of the capital plan. Before the announcement, a partial renovation of City Hall was underway and will be expanded as a result.

External links[edit]