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City Hall's design, architecture set it apart from others

As I watch Snellville's new City Hall and senior center complex being built, it reminds me of a place that always was a place of antiquity. The buildings personify history, progress, success and stability.

Snellville started as a small agricultural community with a 1,900-square-foot City Hall made of granite. Growth and change came to Snellville and to its City Hall. City officials purchased and renovated the old Snellville consolidated school buildings. This renovated complex comprised about 12,000 square feet. County crews destroyed the main granite stone school building on the property, which was considered the first school, but part of that old school was saved. Benches were also built and put on the grounds of the renovated City Hall complex, using stone steps from the old school.

The City Hall being built off Oak Road will have about 33,000 square feet of space when it is finished. It is a beautiful structure with its cupola and winding staircase, located on the site of a former shopping center called Oakland Village. The shopping center, at the time it was built, boasted of the largest Kroger supermarket store in metro Atlanta. So this property has had its distinction.

This is an ideal choice for a new City Hall complex. The first reason is because city officials decided to demolish an abandon shopping center. This action speaks to the community of revitalization, which is sorely needed in the southern part of the county. The second reason is the location. The location on Oak Road makes it easier to go from the east of Snellville northward, into town and to the new City Hall. People east of Ga. Highway 124 have easier access to the complex as well.

The architectural style of this complex is considered to be of the timeless neoclassical Federalist period. Charles Bulfinch was America's leading neo-Federalist-style architect. He was involved in the planning of much of old Boston and was in charge of designing the Capitol in Washington. Using cupolas, Corinthian columns and porticos trademarks, this Federalist architecture is borrowed from classical civilizations of ancient Greek and Roman buildings along with dental molding, symmetrical brick facade and balanced rows of windows. The First Baptist Church across the street from the city complex has similar architecture symmetry.

Neoclassical Federalist architecture, which came into vogue during the founding of our county, incorporates Greece, the great example of ancient democracy and Rome, the great example of ancient republicanism. This symbolism provided the ideal complement to America's young eclectic theory of government a type unknown to the young nation. The founders called this system a democratic republic.

I believe public buildings should reflect America's highest ideals. They should speak of influence and authority. Edward Feiner, who was the chief architect for the General Services Administration Public Buildings Service, once said, "These buildings are the future historic landmarks for the country. Architecture does affect how people act or function."

I hope the City Hall complex will affect Snellville positively and will have a lasting impact on how its officials and citizens act and function. I know the architecture will give the city enduring design quality. We live in a society of disconnect and this complex may reconnect the city to its citizens, setting Snellville apart from others cities. These buildings may give Snellville a physical heart to the community, a sense of place, but a community's heart is more then just bricks and mortar; it's about relationships, it's about people. A community is just an empty shell without it.

Maybe this City Hall complex is the anchor Snellville has been looking for in the midst of growth and change. I just want people to see Snellville as a place to call home.

Bruce Garraway is a Snellville city councilman.