Transformation of Old City Hall into a Law School

In 2017, the University of North Texas-Dallas (UNT) took over the ownership of Old City Hall in downtown Dallas. The surprise was not that a deteriorating building would be passed on to a new proprietor, but that the City of Dallas didn’t want money in exchange. All it required was that the historic building would be preserved. Through this innovative partnership, one of Dallas’s most distinctive and historically significant buildings has since revived the city’s downtown landscape.

Designed by architect C.D. Hill in a Beaux Art style, Old City Hall opened its doors in 1914. It was Dallas’s fourth City Hall and served its purpose until 1978 when offices were moved to its current modernist structure. In a much celebrated restoration initiative, the focus was to preserve details from two time periods: the original style of 1914 and those in place when Lee Harvey Oswald was jailed there in November 1963 after John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

One of the challenges of the extensive interior restoration was uncovering the original architectural elements that had been covered by drywall or removed during previous modernization initiatives that took place during the 1950s. In the grand entrance hall suspended ceilings covered intricate original cornice work that was revealed for the first time in decades. EverGreene was engaged to investigate and determine the historic decor and color schemes and restore the historic plaster plaster ceilings and decorative finishes. Portions of the central staircase that had been removed in favor of a smaller utility staircase have been rebuild and restored to its original grandeur. A set of 10 original murals on the second floor depicting scenes from Dallas’ early history were unfortunately lost, except for a small portion of one. EverGreene proceeded to conserve the historic mural segment, allowing it to be viewed in the new lobby.

The restored historic architecture and art is striking, inside and outside. Yet, the building offers all modern spacial and functional amenities, allowing students, faculty, and staff of the only public law school in the city of Dallas to continue to make history.