The old City Hall, victim of the wrecking ball, was one of the best known landmarks on the Parkersburg skyline, falling in 1980. As for its end as the center of the city, local government’s moves weren’t sudden, but the end of the building was unexpected. By the end of 1973 the days of the old City Hall were numbered. Parkerburg’s City Hall, first occupied in October 1897, was found to be unsafe by Rude and Associates, a Charleston firm, in a survey completed on November 28th, 1973. “In conclusion, for economic reasons we recommend the building be abandoned,” their report said. “If historical considerations are overwhelming, it is recommended that the complete interior, including the arches and roof be removed and concrete floors and steel framing be installed.”
The report said the building could be restored to limited use for $150,000. Then-Mayor William P.A. Nicely said he preferred a new city building. Fleck and Hickey Architects of La Porte, IN. were hired to draw plans for a new structure. The first bids on the new Municipal Building project came in $1 million over the city budget. Design changes were made and the project was re-bid. On November 23rd, 1977, Nicely signed contracts for the construction of the Municipal Building. The Carl E. Stephens Construction Co. of Parkersburg received the $3,303,722 construction contract, and North West Electric Co. of Marietta was awarded the $366,800 electrical contract.
Execution of the contracts ended fear that the city would be unable to meet a deadline of midnight that day for beginning the project in order to keep a $1.6 million federal grant. Immediately after signing, both contractors moved equipment onto the building site. The Municipal Building was dedicated on October 18th, 1979 with parades, speeches and fanfare. By the beginning of November, all City employees had moved to the new building.
But what about the old building?
The old City Hall was first put up for bids in September of 1979. Highland Heights of Vienna submitted the high bid of $52,000 at the bid opening on October 9th, 1979, and city council accepted their offer. However, then-City Attorney Joseph McFarland later announced the bid was not valid. State law required the building be sold at a public auction.
At the auction, City-Hall Development Inc. was the high bidder at $40,000. City council accepted the bid and the deed of transfer was recorded July 16th. The corporation, whose owners and officers, with the exception of its president Donald M. O’Rourke, were unidentified, decided to demolish the building. Michael Pauley, a historian with the state Department of History and Culture, said that “The fact that the building is on the National Register of Historic Places does not prevent it from being demolished. The two most significant artifacts from the site, the clock and the bell, are preserved for future generations,” the release said. The old Howard Tower clock from on top the old City Building is gone forever. From what I can find out, it was sold for scrap. I never did believe this because even back in 1980 this clock was worth several thousand dollars but was scrapped. The solid brass bell for the clock is in the new City Building, after it was saved. 84 years of adorning the old City Hall bell tower came to an end. The bell was forged by the McShan Bell Foundry in Baltimore, MD in 1896 for the E. Howard Watch and Clock Co.
Mountain State Demolition (Not Al Smith Co.) moved its equipment into place Sept. 16 after the city issued CHD a $25.00 demolition permit. And the building was demolished.
Full article available on Mackey’s Antiques & Clock Repair, here: Remembering the Old Parkersburg City Building