I passed through Manchester, New Hampshire the other day. New Hampshire’s largest city, it is a sprawling place, with a downtown badly impacted by Urban Renewal, and the decline of the textile industry that once made it one of the great manufacturing centers of New England. Despite this, many fine examples of 19th century architecture survive, in varying degrees of preservation, amidst the parking lots and malls. One that particularly catches my eye is the City Hall, designed in 1845 by the enterprising Edward Shaw of Boston, author of several of the most influential pattern books of his era.
Originally stuccoed, and I’m told by a friend, scored and veined to resemble marble, the building was restored with its warm brick exposed, as it has been for many years. It once dominated Elm Street, the broad main street of the city, with its rows of low brick commercial structures. Today, its entrace faces one of Manchester’s tallest buildings.
|Manchester Chamber of Commerce
For all the English inspiration of the facades, the belfry could only be American, so distinctive the take on the medieval precedent.
A commercial building next door, probably early 20th century, is a particularly tactful and successful complement to the earlier structure (but too bad about those poorly considered awnings)
Just around the corner, survivors of the earlier mercantile city display the earlier scale
Shaw’s pattern books, like those of Asher Benjamin, helped spread the Greek Revival style through New England. In the 1840’s, he caught the Gothic bug, and along with New Yorkers Downing and Vaux, helped popularize the new style.
Above, a plate from Shaw’s ‘Rural Architecture’ (Boston, 1842). Variations of these designs, most often in wood, are seen across New England.