During the Great Depression era, Gallatin citizens had a loss unrelated to the financial crisis that plagued the nation. In 1926, a fire destroyed the city hall which at that time was merely a wooden structure built in the 1870’s by the former city marshal, Joe Wickam. It was often referred to as “the house that Joe built.”
Previously, the building served as a jail. However, two years before the fire, the iron cells were removed and the building moved closer to the street and rented as a place of business by the city. It had also been utilized for a second-hand store in the lower part as well as a residence for the store’s tenant in the upper part.
When the blaze occurred, the tenant lowered himself to the ground by using rope he’d previously placed nearby to use in case of a fire. To warn the people, the night officer fired his revolver and sounded a bell. Due to the wind, there was concern about danger to both the blacksmith shop on the south and the Farmer’s Produce Co. on the north, but they escaped without any harm. However, the city hall couldn’t be spared.
The shop’s merchandise and the city property were both insured. Now, plans were “in the air” as to what to do about a city hall. City officials suggested erecting a building on the fire site to serve as a city hall as well as centralize the various city departments.
Three years after the fire, specifications were made to build 40′ x 60′ brick building to be located at their present site. The city had the brick from an abandoned water tower, and only facing brick would need to be purchased. The city had been leasing a building since the fire and rent money saved could be applied to the construction cost. Also, there would be ample space to store fire equipment and to serve as a police court.
At this time it was suggested to use the old YMCA building that stood with boarded up doors and windows. The heads of the YMCA were notified and they soon met with the city officials at the Morris Hotel. It was decided the building would be given to the city hall free of charge. The playground would be kept for the town’s children to use. Thus, the problem of what to do for a city hall was solved.
— researched by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin, MO