When City Hall was completed in 1875, it was admired as a marvel of style, elegance and technology. The Second Empire design was the first commission of 22-year old George Frederick. Wendel Bollman, a Baltimore engineer, designed the 227-foot-high cast iron dome.
The need for the new building was pressing. Since 1830, Rembrandt Peale's Museum, located one block to the north, had served as Baltimore's first city hall. In the intervening decades, the city's population had swelled, along with government services and civic pride. Officials complained of cramped quarters and the indignity of working out of "back parlors." They called for the construction of a new hall appropriate to the burgeoning city in size and spirit.
The cornerstone was laid in October 1867 and the building was dedicated eight years later. Taxpayers were in high spirits: the cost of the building was $200,000 less than the appropriation, an unusual distinction in the history of public buildings.
Inside, the rotunda rises 119 feet up to a magnificent dome. In the stained glass eye of the dome are four figures representing Commerce, Agriculture, Manufacturing and the Arts.
In 1975, Baltimore's City Hall became the first major one in the US to be rehabilitated for its original purpose. The award-winning rehabilitation succeeded in almost doubling the amount of floor space, while restoring the ceremonial areas to their original grandeur.