Photographing New York: City Hall District

Supreme Court, City Hall Photography, New York Photography

(This guide is part of The New York Photographer’s Travel Book, which is available as a free digital download.)

The City Hall District in Manhattan is a tiny area with some of the most intricate and gorgeous old architecture in the city. Begin in Foley Square, where you will see the New York Supreme Court building and the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse. If you are a fan of New York crime or court shows, such as Law and Order, you will undoubtedly notice the court steps of both buildings, which are two of the most filmed on locations in the city.

Walk south towards the giant Manhattan Municipal Building, built in 1914 as a way to create much needed city office space that could not be provided by the relatively tiny City Hall a few blocks away. Designed by the architecture firm McKim, Mead & White, the Municipal Building is one of the most beautiful structures in New York that nobody talks about. The building has a European style to it, which seems to have been the city’s way of showing off that they were on par with cities such as London or Paris. At its very tip is a 25-foot golden copper statue titled Civic Fame, which represents the consolidation of the boroughs of New York coming together in 1898. Down below is a gorgeous columned base, with a Roman-style central arch, which once allowed pedestrian traffic through it. Over to the south side is a stunning arcade with Guastavino tiled curved ceilings, which cover the entrance to the City Hall subway station. It is here that you can take the 6 train past the last stop to see the old abandoned City Hall Subway station, which we will talk about later.

Manhattan Municipal Building, City Hall Photography, New York Photography

Manhattan Municipal Building, City Hall Photography, New York Photography


Walk a block west on Chambers Street to see the Surrogate’s Court building and the Tweed Courthouse. Then walk back to Centre Street and head south to Park Row, although keep in mind that the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian path is here as well, should you prefer to do that. Here you will see the Woolworth Building, the tallest building in the world in 1913 and nicknamed the Cathedral of Commerce. In my book, the Woolworth building is neck and neck with the Chrysler Building for the most beautiful architecture in New York. In City Hall Park, you will see City Hall and the Jacob Mould Fountain, which has a great view of the top of the Manhattan Municipal Building.

Woolworth Building, City Hall Photography, New York Photography

(This guide is part of The New York Photographer’s Travel Book, which is available as a free digital download.)