The Alpena Government Square is located on the south bank of Thunder Bay River, where it empties into Lake Huron and is bounded by N. 1st Avenue, Park Place, and Water Street. The square follows the tenets of the City Beautiful movement and embraces three monumental white masonry Beaux-Arts classical institutional buildings ( AL4, AL5).
The first of the twentieth-century government buildings on the square was the city hall, which was designed by Clark and Munger of Bay City and built by Richard Collins of Alpena. This stately structure blends Georgian and other classical elements in a design formula established in Michigan for public buildings by David Gibbs's courthouses ( EA1) and followed by those of Claire Allen ( HI1). The Alpena work presents an interesting comparison on a national level with Charles Bulfinch's Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston, 1795–1797, though on a drastically reduced scale. Each incorporates arched window openings on the second level—although they are blind arcades in the Michigan work—and a projecting portico on arched piers with Ionic columns supporting a pediment. Until the late 1950s the Alpena city hall had a cupola, which would have served as a prominent terminus as does Bulfinch's dome. Unlike the Boston work, Alpena's city hall used the then-popular Indiana Bedford limestone rather than brick and wood. The larger Boston work has a stately presence, while the smaller Alpena building is solid and heavy and lacks the majesty one would wish for in the seat of local government.
The two-story, steel-frame building with intersecting gabled wings stands on an elevated rusticated basement and is topped with a red tile, hipped roof. The exterior is of top-grade, light yellowish-brown Indiana Bedford limestone, a material selected over the objections of those promoting the use of local limestone or concrete made from local cement.