The original meeting location of the Kennesaw City Council has been lost to history. It is known, however, that from Kennesaw’s incorporation in 1887 until the Great Depression, the offices used by our city government were rented. The only fragments of information about these locations come from the Kennesaw City Council records of 1913 and 1918.
On Jan. 6, 1913, the city leased an office from G.W. Prichard for $8 per year. This office may have been located inside a building on Lewis Street that served as his house, blacksmith shop and hotel. The structure was torn down in 1974, and today is the site of Hester Dental. On Jan. 7, 1918, a room was rented by the council from W.E. McClure for $6 per year. McClure owned a mercantile store on Main Street, in the middle of what is now J.O. Stephenson Avenue. The building was demolished in 1956, to make way for the street.
In 1924, council members A.J. Cox and R. Russom were tasked with investigating the possibility of building a “Justice Courtroom and Council Chamber” in Kennesaw. It is not known what happened to this effort.
Eleven years later, in 1935, it was announced the mayor had contacted the U.S. government about building a City Hall. Later that year, $350 was borrowed by the city to construct the building, but it is not specified who lent this money. The county government also gave the city $100 for construction.
The site chosen for the new structure was on Park Street, now part of J.O. Stephenson Avenue. This small brick building sat roughly where the entrance to the current City Hall is today. On April 7, 1936, the first meeting was held inside this building. In 1940, this City Hall was expanded slightly when a shed was added to the building. At the same time, a two-seat outhouse was added behind the building as a “‘Ladies’ toilet.”
On Sept. 4, 1956, the City Council voted to build a new building on the corner of Cherokee and Summers streets. (This portion of Summers Street later was renamed Main Street. The exact site is near where BurgerFi is today.) The new building cost an estimated $6,000 and opened in mid-January 1957. It contained both the City Council Chambers and the Kennesaw Fire Department (KFD).
The KFD moved to Cherokee Street in the 1960s, leaving the garage in the back of City Hall vacant. In 1963, the space was remodeled into the original Kennesaw library. Meanwhile, when the city offices moved from the 1936 structure, the building remained the City Jail, until it was demolished in the 1960s or ’70s.
When the General locomotive returned to Kennesaw in 1962, as part of its tour across the nation, the sign on the front of City Hall was changed to read “Big Shanty” — the name of Kennesaw at the time of the Great Locomotive Chase during the Civil War.
In the 1970s, plans were announced for a new City Hall on what is now J. O. Stephenson Avenue. The building was designed to house the Kennesaw Police Department and City Council Chambers on the first floor, with a recreation center in the basement, to be built in a “Williamsburg-style.” Bonds to build the structure were passed in 1971, but it soon was determined that more money was needed to complete the structure. In addition, there were problems with the contractors, so the decision was made to delay the construction of the Police Department’s side of the building.
The new building officially opened in 1973. The 1957 City Hall was rented for a short while, before it became home of the Police Department. When looking at our current Kennesaw City Hall, only the one-story portion on the right is what opened in 1973. In 1988, the first floor of the middle portion and entire left portion were added. It was at this time that the Kennesaw Police Department was moved to its current location, and the 1957 City Hall was demolished. In 2004, the current building’s second story and council chambers were built.
From the unknown beginnings of our city’s offices to the grand structure that today houses our government, the history of our City Halls is a long and winding path. While nothing remains of the 1936 structure, the cornerstone of the City Hall that opened in 1957 still can be found embedded in a plant bed, adjacent to BurgerFi.
– Andrew Bramlett is vice president of the Kennesaw Historical Society and an honorary member of the Kennesaw Cemetery Preservation Commission.