A public building is defined as any structure that is owned or leased, and principally used, by a governmental agency for public business or meetings.
Perth Amboy City Hall, built 1717, located in Perth Amboy, NJ is both the oldest public building and oldest city hall in America still in use. The City of Perth Amboy recognizes it as the oldest City Hall in continuous use in the United States. The building is described by the U.S. National Park Service as the oldest municipal office still in use in the United States. The State of NJ defines it as the oldest continuously in use municipal building in the country still in operation.
Perth Amboy City Hall is the site of the first ratification of the United States Bill of Rights AND where the first African American voted. On November 20, 1789 it is where the State of New Jersey became the first to ratify the United States Bill of Rights which comprises the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. On March 31, 1870 in Perth Amboy City Hall Thomas Mundy Peterson, the first African American, voted in an election under the just-enacted provisions of the15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Construction of the building began in 1714 and was completed in 1717. A two-room surveyor's office was built adjacent to City Hall in 1867, which was used by the General Board of Proprietors of the Eastern Division of New Jersey. It served as the local courthouse and jail, and was also used by the Provincial Assembly until 1775.
The building has twice been rebuilt after being badly damaged by fire; first in 1731 and not rebuilt until 1745. And again around 1765 following an arson attack believed to have been committed by a former inmate who was imprisoned on debt charges. Although it was rebuilt twice and renovated in 1826, 1872 and 2006, some of the original 1717 structure still remains. The location contained court chambers, rooms for the Provincial Assembly until 1775, and was used as a schoolhouse and for community meetings.
From about 1800 to 1870, City Hall Courthouse housed the public school classes. A two-room surveyor's office was built adjacent to the City Hall in 1867, which was used by the General Board of Proprietors of the Eastern Division of New Jersey.
The building is now listed on both the New Jersey Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places. The current structure is Victorian with a mansard roof and several new wings. A City Hall Park was also developed with a historic statue of George Washington and an exact replica of the Liberty Bell.
*Note: Some sources claim that Palace of the Governors in New Mexico is the oldest public building in the United States. However that claim is inaccurate. Although Palace of the Governors was built in 1610, it no longer serves as a public building. Today it functions as a museum and has been so since 1909.
Related Topic: Federal Hall National Memorial
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