The City Building, Union City
The building and dedication of the City Building in Union City in 1884, 1885, its remodeling in 1931 and its 1992 renovations share a common thread of complaints, setbacks, and finally celebration!
Back in the spring of 1884 when the new City Building was still a gleam in the eye of the Union City Council, there were scoffers who said that the building never could be built. There were scoffers who questioned the sanity of the Council at wanting to build such a building and there were doubters who watched it being built, all of the time saying that the plan wouldn't work.
Architect Will Dabney was a dreamer. He converted his dream to a paper plan for a city building and convinced Council that it could be done. He also convinced J.W. Hunter, Burgess of Union City at the time. By Thursday, July 10, 1884, Hunter was advertising for proposals for furnishing material for the building.
John Allen of Titusville bid successfully on the contract for the mason work and material for $3,300 and H.O. Tourtellott of Union City successfully bid for the carpentry work and material for about $2,740. According to the Union City Times, architect Dabney's plans had harmonious proportions and proved "that he has chosen his profession wisely." The building was to be 44x86 feet and two stories high, with solid brick walls.
On the first floor a room 14x24 feet was planned to be used for elections and the balance of the floor to be occupied by the fire apparatus. On the second floor would be two rooms in the front of the building, 14x24 feet each, to be occupied by the fire companies. The remainder of the floor would be used as a public hall. The building when completed would be well ventilated, heated by steam, and have all of the modern improvements. It would be a credit to Union City and members of the Council who voted in favor of building it.
The dress continued to materialize and by August 14, 1884, the contracts were closed for the City Building and work had already started on its foundation. In September of 1884, the Union City Times commented about the people who stood around and offered suggestions about the City building. "Let the kickers kick. The Council will proceed as they think best. Correct gentlemen."
The City Building was completed in December of 1884 and formally dedicated on January 23, 1885. Council appointed an arrangement committee consisting of John F. Laubender, P. Coleman, H.C. Cheney, F.E. McLean, John Skivington, H. Buttenbaugh and E.B. Landsrath. The committee sent out invitations for the dedication and invited several local music groups to perform. The Coleman Hose Band played and so did J.W. Carroll's orchestra. James W. Sproul, Esq. gave the welcoming address and Professor T.A. Edwards delivered the dedication address. He talked about how important the City Building would be to further generations in Union City and how the thriving town was finally acquiring a governmental home. "Union City Welcome Home!" he cheered.
About 350 people attended the ceremonies and 150 paraded in the grand march. They pronounced the supper supplied by Mr. Koehler "immense", and enjoyed a splendid evening.
Forty six years later in October of 1931, the Union City times and Enterprise reported that the remodeling of the City Building was nearly complete. Contractor Post and his men steadily changed the old structure and it is "now a well ventilated, well lighted, strongly constructed and neatly planned building for public use."
The contractors extended the ceiling seven feet higher than the old and put a metal covering over all. They installed twelve good sized windows, six on each side and placed high up on the seven foot extension to provide plenty of ventilation, light and sunshine as well as adding 21 electric lights.
Fourteen feet up the sides of the walls were painted gray and from there on up to the ceiling finished off in white. The remodeling on the main floor included a new jail, new walls and ceiling and a fifty foot extension on the back end. The students and teachers of the high school watched the remodeling with special interest because it included a new gymnasium and auditorium for them.
The contractor estimated that part of the work would be completed by the end of October and the rest held off until the new year.
Two weeks later on October 29, 1931, the Union City times ran another City Building story, under a Frank Austin's byline and a boldface headline: EXPLANATION! The story said that for the past several weeks the city fathers had been severely criticized by a few citizens who were opposed to the remodeling of the City Building.
The story contended that it was a necessary piece of work because the building would have been condemned by the state inspectors very shortly. The building had been damaged by fire a few years ago. Following the fire after all repairs had been made, dry rot in the timbers supporting the ceiling made the building unsafe for public gatherings. The contractors felt that it was a miracle that the building hadn't collapsed. In fact, before the workmen were permitted to work under the ceiling, a bracing scaffold had to be built to support the roof.
The story said that the city fathers should be congratulated for promoting the much needed remodeling. "It furnished employment for the unemployed besides giving the city a piece of interior work to be proud of."
To add substance Frank Austin's story, the Union City Times printed a letter addressed to Dr. H.L. Stem, president of the Council. Mr. Austin complimented the Council for the good work it had done on the building and for "removing a terrible hazard." He said that there could have been a catastrophe that the city would never forget if the "old rotten roof had given away when your children were having games or other gatherings." But now, he said, Union City could be proud of the City Building for it was safe in every way and also approved by the Department of Labor and Industry.
In 1992, there were complaints, delays, problems in the remodeling of the City Building. But the job was done, it was still home to Union City government, and unchanging human nature helped get the job done.