full bike rack

Photograph of Peterborough's City Hall circa 1955

The building at 500 George Street North is Peterborough’s first purpose-built municipal town- or city hall. Its predecessor was located in the Bradburn Opera House, which was demolished in the 1970s to erect Peterborough Square mall. Ontario Premier Leslie Frost laid the cornerstone on 1 December 1950. The new City Hall was opened officially on 26 October 1951 by the Mayor of Peterborough, England circa 1952 ceremonially-robed mayor of Peterborough, England, L.R. Chamberlain and Ottawa’s mayor Charlotte Whitton. Mayor Chamberlain noted in his diary that he was given a golden key to unlock the doors but they contained no keyhole! Nevertheless, the doors were opened and everyone filed inside – requesting handshakes and autographs from Mayor Chamberlain.

City Hall was designed by Toronto architectural firm Marani and Morris, and built by Eastwood Construction. It is 2½ stories, sandstone cladding over a steel frame, with a flat roof. The style is a late interpretation of the “City Beautiful” movement that was popularized at the 1892 Chicago World’s Exposition. The building’s central portico contains three door openings and simple concrete door surrounds, transoms, and pediments. Above the main entranceway is a clock tower and an octagonal belvedere tower topped by a gold dome and weathervane. The foyer is adorned by a mosaic floor map of Peterborough County – believed to be unique in Canada. The building cost was approximately $1,000,000, half of which was a designated bequest from the estate of former mayor W.G. Morrow.

In 1981 the City of Peterborough took over the former 1911 Carnegie Library building next to City Hall, and the two buildings were connected in 1983. Other than that, the original 1951 exterior has remained relatively unchanged, but City Hall has been altered extensively inside for function and accessibility.

The next time you attend a Council meeting, pay taxes, or get a permit, don’t just rush out -- take a few minutes to look at the beautiful building that is the administrative heart of Peterborough.

Article written by Don Willcock, Visitor Service Receptionist with the Peterborough Museum & Archives
Article was featured in Snapd Peterborough, October 2018