City Halls of San Bernardino

The San Bernardino City Hall has been located in several different buildings since the City first became incorporated in 1854. An article printed in The Guardian newspaper on Saturday, October 7, 1871 reported that:

"On the corner of Fourth and Utah ["D"] streets, Judge A. D. Boren is putting up a very HANDSOME BUILDING, which fronts 40 feet on Fourth street and has a depth of 60 feet, and will be two stories in height. The building, when completed, will be a decided ornament to that business portion of the town. Meyerstein & Co., the well know [sic] dry goods and grocery dealers, will occupy the corner store on the first floor. The upper story will be made into a city hall---which, by the way, is a thing very much needed in our town."

No photograph or substantiating document could be located that verifies that the building was actually completed and that City Hall was located in it.

The First City Hall

First Permanent San Bernardino City Hall

Photo of First Permanent City Hall, 1901
(Courtesy of the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society)

The first permanent location was at the southwest corner of Third and D Streets and opened in 1901. Only the ground story was designated as the City Hall with a dentist office located on the second story. Today, Vanir Tower occupies the location once housing San Bernardino's City Hall.

The Second City Hall

On July 7, 1919 the City Council passed Ordinance No. 727 authorizing the purchase of the Farmers Exchange National Bank building, which was constructed in 1888.

In the History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, the authors Brown and Boyd point out:

"The city purchased of the Farmers Exchange Bank its bank building for $40,000, to be paid for at the rate of $166.67 per month, for twenty years. The city hall, houses all general government officers, street department, police department included, also water department and United States Forest department. The city hall well answers the needs as an administration building, centrally located and convenient to the county offices."

The Second San Bernardino City Hall
The Second City Hall, 1919

In August, 1919 City Hall personnel moved into the old Farmers Exchange Bank building, located on the west side of D street between Fourth and Fifth streets. On one side of the City Hall was a barber shop and on the other side was a shoe shop. Painted on the side of the building beneath the words, CITY HALL, is the date, Aug. 30, 1919.

The Third City Hall

San Bernardino's Mayor C. T. Johnson had the honor of turning the first shovel of earth back on March 6, 1937 when ground was broken for a new City Hall to be located at 426 Third Street. The building was built as part of the Public Works Administration projects.

Placement of the San Bernardino City Hall Cornerstone
Left to right: Mitchum Dewitt, Architect; unknown; Ora Miller; Mayor C.T. Johnson; unknown.
The two "unknown" gentlemen look like Masons.

During construction, a cornerstone was set into place, which read,


It was anticipated that the building would be completed in 1937, however that was not to be as indicated by the minutes of the December 13, 1937 special meeting of the City Council:

A Resolution of the mayor and Common Council of the City of San Bernardino, requesting a time extension in which to complete the City Hall, from the Public Works administration, was read for final passage and adopted by the following vote, to-wit: Ayes: Councilmen Herkelrath, Atwood, Shafer, Holcomb, Sheehan. Noes: None. Absent: None."

Finally, on February 28, 1938, the City Council formally accepted the building and City Hall employees then began the move into their new facility.

The Third San Bernardino City Hall
The Third City Hall, 1938

In 1969, City Hall moved temporarily to the old American National Bank building on the northeast corner of 3rd and E Streets. The Public Works Administration City Hall building was demolished to clear ground for the construction of the City's current City Hall.

The Current City Hall

Current San Bernardino City Hall

Planning of the overall project began in 1963 under the guidance of a citizen's committee. The design contracts for the City Hall, exhibition hall, and parking structure were completed by September 1972.

Gruen Associates - Architect Ceasar Pelli (A.I.A.) Architectural Journals and critics in this country, Europe and Japan have been unanimous in their praise of Gruen Associates design as an outstanding example of public architecture:

  • 6,000 tinted smoke glass windows, avoids visibility from outside.

  • Outside:90% glass

  • Basic component: Metal Studs, Dry Wall

The City Hall is a six story, glass-sheathed building - sculpture designed to engender civic pride and reflect the urban environment around it. Internally, with the exception of the council chambers, it is a functional office building; all walls are removable for change.

Building Information

Current San Bernardino City Hall

Square Feet 14,729
Net Acres: 0.34
% of Block: 3.1
Size: 104,000 sf
Description: 6 story
Cost: $4,950,579

In 1982 the American Institute of Architects celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Historic American Buildings Survey under the sponsorship of the United States Conference of Mayors and the United States Department of the Interior. Selected were 30 of America's City Halls which presented civic architecture that revealed the changing architectural tastes and social orientations of America. San Bernardino City Hall was selected as a modern super high tech example of the 20th Century.