As Paducah’s City Hall closes in on its fiftieth birthday, it is dying. Edward Durell Stone, the building’s renowned architect, would not be happy about the demise of his masterpiece, his rendition of the United States Embassy in New Delhi, India, also his architectural creation.
Age 50 is nowhere near old age and death. It shouldn’t be this way, but our City Hall is not dying from some horrific event. No, City Hall is just dying from a thousand small cuts. These cuts were probably not malicious, but they are cuts nonetheless.
There was a time that City Hall literally seemed to float on a sea of light. All its columns, each lit at night, have grown dark or are only partially lit. The black stair railings that have guided dignitaries and everyday citizens for nearly five decades have been allowed to rust away from their moorings on the concrete steps that lead to the roofed piazza. And that roof, it is bending low now at the ends, like a man needlessly stooped at middle age. As you approach from the 5th Street side, the concrete piazza is broken and pockmarked--not from a catastrophe, just no one cared to keep the grand entrance grand. And don’t forget to notice the small chains up high near the entrance doors. I believe they are forgotten remnants for the hanging of the Christmas wreaths. Those entrance doors from both 4th and 5th Streets have a less than pleasing “grafted on” look. Instead of thoughtfully restoring the original doors, we made do with something less. And that is what we got, something less. At some point it was decided to “modernize” the windows with a fresh coat of grey paint. Too bad the paint covered the aluminum that had originally been designed by Mr. Stone. As a further insult, the surface couldn’t have been prepped correctly because the grey is flaking away.
I should stop here. This subject is dispiriting enough. And I bear responsibility also. As your commissioner I have not demanded the attention this building needs. It is just a sad way to treat our front door to the world. Maybe we should try to formulate a plan to correct the slights to our seat of city government. If not, its epitaph might read: “Some by war, some by pestilence--no, our City Hall perished due to neglect and deferred maintenance.”
I have told you my feelings, but I need to hear from you. So let’s have it.