A Place for Business

Queen Square has always been used for commercial purposes, rather than strictly as a recreational green space. The earliest recorded discussion of civic use was in 1839, when the City Commission considered building a jail in the square. In 1857, the commission allowed a city market to be built in Queen Square, which operated in that location until 1875. In 1870, a jail and jail keeper’s residence was built in the square as well.

After the Civil War, business and travel began to flourish once again. Queen Square was an ideal location for commerce in the growing city, with room to expand near the docks and near other traffic downtown.

A Growing Economy

A coffeehouse and a greengrocer were built in Queen Square in 1870 and 1872, respectively. In 1872, the city realized it was forbidden by charter to lease city commons areas to private enterprise. After that time, only public buildings were proposed for the square, but even that direction was controversial.

The property’s further use was a topic of several studies from 1876 until 1882. In 1882, the former County Courthouse was moved out of Hanover Square into the southeastern quadrant of Queen Square. The building housed the court, city hall and Masonic Lodge. Its proximity to the busy ports, with railroad and maritime interests, was convenient for business and industry.

For the Common Good

When the city attempted to establish other public buildings in Queen Square, residents vigorously objected. Citing the city’s charter and challenging the city commission’s authority to appropriate common areas, Brunswick’s citizenry waged a war of words in the local newspaper in protest of the proposed building plans. When they wrote that the people desired the square for its original use as a public park space, the city responded by passing a resolution to repurpose the former coffeehouse as a fire station. The plan satisfied the criteria for an escape clause in the charter that allowed the city to use the land for the common good in certain cases- including this one.

Although there was no formal park or gathering area set aside, citizens of Brunswick nonetheless found occasions to use parts of Queen Square for such special purposes as watching this circus parade, complete with exotic animals. For many townspeople, this would have been their first opportunity to see a live elephant.

An Architectural Treasure

As Brunswick grew in the 1880s, so did its need for public buildings. Over that decade, city fathers successfully petitioned the Georgia Legislature for permission to circumvent the city’s original charter restrictions and allow certain civic buildings to be established in Queen Square. Plans for a grand new City Hall, drawn by famed Savannah architect, Alfred Eichberg, were approved in 1889. A building contract was awarded to Anderson and Sharpe, in the amount of $33,000, in 1890. Shortly after the project started, a national economic collapse, the worst to date in the country’s history, delayed its completion until 1893.

The Richardson-Romanesque style of Alfred Eichberg’s historic City Hall set the tone for architecture of other buildings in Brunswick. He also designed the National Bank of Brunswick building, which was located on the western half of Machen Square. Eichberg used red brick contrasting with rough-hewn granite or limestone, with many arches and colonnades incorporated in the façade of his buildings. Other structures in the downtown area followed suit with similar materials, which gave the city a unified appearance until the modernization movement in the mid-20th century.

Face Lift

In 2003, a massive renovation of historic City Hall was completed. The project included replacing of the 5,000-pound clock tower spire, which stands 110 feet above the surface of Newcastle Street. Today, the elegant structure hosts receptions, balls and dinners as well as city court functions.

First Home for First Responders

Other plans for public structures on Queen Square, including a federal building, new market house and an opera house, were proposed and abandoned near the turn of the 20th century. Of these, only a fire station was built, on the southeast quadrant of the square, in 1902. The station was used until 1932, when the City Fire Department moved to a location on Gloucester Street.

Celebrating Our Heritage

Today, the northern half of Queen Square is used as community green space. There, visitors find a monument to colonial founder, General James Edward Oglethorpe, on the eastern side and another to businessman and civic leader, Columbia Downing, on the western side.