Capital Region Scrapbook: City Hall was Depression dream of Mayor Fagal, despite heaps of criticism

The Depression didn't diminish Mayor Henry C. Fagal's goal for a beautiful new City Hall for Schenec
An inside view of Schenectady’s City Hall from 1958.
An inside view of Schenectady’s City Hall from 1958.

Henry C. Fagal was right.

Fagal was Schenectady’s mayor during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Some of those were Depression years, when jobs and money were scarce.

That’s why Henry’s prize project seemed extravagant. The Republican wanted to build a new City Hall, but he heard his big hall on Jay Street described as the “million dollar palace” and “Fagal’s Folly.”

Words didn’t stop Fagal’s sticks and stones: The new office building was built in 1930 and 1931 at more than $1 million. It helped change the city, and today remains one of Schenectady’s most distinctive landmarks.

Historians say Fagal and his backers had their eyes on a lot bounded by Jay, Franklin, Clinton and Liberty streets. They tore down old and dilapidated buildings to start laying bricks for the municipal structure. As old stone and wood came down, office space around Jay Street was rented for city departments. The new City Hall would include a new police headquarters and lock-up, and replace a deteriorating prisoners’ quarters in the cellar of the old City Hall.

Pat Kirkwood was around when City Hall was on the rise. He was 84 when he talked to Schenectady Gazette reporter Bill O’Brien about the politicians’ clubhouse for a story in 1958.

Kirkwood remembered the mayor was voted out of office in 1932. “But Henry Fagal was back in the next election, smack in the middle of the Depression,” he said.

Kirkwood knew where the city’s places of beauty were. Veterans’ Park, across from the Schenectady County Courthouse, was one. Another was City Hall.

“It should last for a century,” he said, 50 years ago.

Categories: Life and Arts

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