Belfast City Hall has a long history, dating back to the White Linen Hall Library which was originally built on the site where the City Hall now stands. The Linen Hall was integral to the international Linen Exchange and was a well-known spot in Northern Ireland. The heritage of the Linen Hall is kept alive today by the street that runs from the back door of City Hall and down Linen Quarter, which is aptly named Linen Hall Street.
The renovation of the site first got underway in 1888, when Queen Victoria granted Belfast official status as a city. This was due to the thriving shipbuilding and linen businesses. In fact, for a few years during this decade Belfast was thought to be the most heavily populated city in Ireland after Dublin.
Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas was commissioned as the architect for the project; ground was broken in 1898 and took eight years to complete. The construction was financed via the profits of the Belfast Corporation which it made from the gas industry. Several local firms had a say in the construction and design of the building including WH Stephens and H&J Martin.
The exterior of the Belfast City Hall is massive and covers an area of 1.5 acres, not counting the green grass of the courtyard. Portland stone was used for the walls, and the entire structure is fashioned in the Baroque Revival Style. All four corners of the building have towers and in the middle is a copper dome that has a lantern crown. When gazing across the Belfast skyline, the City Hall really stands out. In addition, the copper dome is a very noticeable green colour, similar to other Victorian buildings constructed in the city centre of Belfast.
The City Hall Century
The Belfast City Hall has stood tall for over a century now, and marked its 100th birthday in August of 2006 with a family picnic day on the open grounds. Today it serves as meeting place for the Belfast City Council, and for other local government needs. It is found in Donegall Square and is considered the place that separates the business and commercial areas of the Belfast city centre. It has since become modernised, despite maintaining its original appearance, and now features floodlights that can be coloured to illuminate the structure. Every night at dusk, a white light is cast on the building, and during special occasions a variety of colours can be used.