West St. Paul city hall in 1890 and 2020

Then & Now: West St. Paul City Hall

Thanks to Southview Garden Center for their support. 

Here’s a look at the original West St. Paul city hall from 1890 compared to the current city hall in 2020.

The Original City Hall

Located at Robert and Orme, the original West St. Paul city hall was a stately two-story structure of brick with a rounded turret. It was built in 1889 for $5,000. The second floor was used as a courtroom and school over the years, and there was a jail cell in the basement.

Built on land owned by Jospeh Hurley and sold to the city for $500 (or donated, depending on which history you read), the building faced Hurley Lake and Hurley’s pasture (which would later become the Signal Hills Shopping Center). To the north there were rolling hills along Butler Avenue and to the west were a “large rising expanse of hills” where early residents recall skiing and sledding in the winter.

West St. Paul city hall circa 1890. Far left: City Assessor Patrick Brennan. Far right: Charles Gross, the city’s first police officer. (Photo credit: Dakota County Historical Society)

West St. Paul effectively left South St. Paul and became its own city in 1889. They acted quickly to build their city hall, beating South St. Paul to the punch. Designed by Architect John Coxhead, the building was completed on December 7, 1889. South St. Paul also hired Coxhead to design their city hall, which was completed in the summer of 1890. Despite being nearly identical to West St. Paul’s city hall, the South St. Paul version cost more than $12,000.

West St. Paul city hall in 1937 (Photo credit: Dakota County Historical Society)

Firestone purchased the original West St. Paul city hall for $128,000 and it was demolished in 1971. Firestone Auto Care stands in its place today.

The Current City Hall

By 1964 the original city hall was overcrowded and obsolete. Many city offices had moved to the Dodd School. So construction began on a new city hall across from Marthaler Park at 1616 Humboldt Avenue. Completed in 1969, the city’s new government center is a drastic architectural departure from the original.

The new West St. Paul city hall circa 1969 (Photo credit: Dakota County Historical Society)

From the beginning, reviews on the architectural style have been mixed. It’s been described as a fortress, a bomb shelter, and a warehouse that’s been added on to several times.

“Nothing looks worse than bare concrete,” said City Council Member Jim Kennedy in a 1969 article in the West St. Paul Sun. “But there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

“It’s different and I can understand how other people wouldn’t like it, but time will tell,” said then Mayor Rollin Crawford. “I think it’s designed in appearance and function so it will be recognized as a distinguished building throughout the Twin Cities for a long time to come.”

West St. Paul city hall in 2020

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