The above photos are interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image.
In the early 1800's the majority of New York City still existed solely below Chambers Street, so it made sense to build the new City Hall on the northern edge of that boundry facing south. Unfortunately for those early planners, the City just kept growing. Now we find ourselves with a City Hall whose back is turned to the majority of its population. (There's a political cartoon in there just waiting to happen.) To make matters worse they didn't even treat the rear of the building with the same respect as the front. The most visible parts at the time were clad in ornate white marble while the back was just simple brownstone. It wasn't until a renovation in the 1950's that the entire building was covered in the limestone that we see today. As a result, the old 1919 photo above is a completely different exterior than what you see in the 1984 and 2013 photos.