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In local government, a city hall, town hall, civic centre, (in the UK or Australia) a guildhall, a Rathaus (German), or (more rarely) a municipal building, is the chief administrative building of a city, town, or other municipality. It usually houses the city or town council, its associated departments, and their employees. It also usually functions as the base of the mayor of a city, town, borough, or county / shire.
By convention, until the mid 19th-century, a single large open chamber (or 'hall') formed an integral part of the building housing the council. The hall may be used for council meetings and other significant events. This large chamber, the 'town hall', (and its later variant 'city hall') has become synonymous with the whole building, and with the administrative body housed in it. The terms 'council chambers', 'municipal building' or variants may be used locally in preference to 'town hall' if no such large hall is present within the building.
The local government may endeavor to use the town hall building to promote and enhance the quality of life of the community. In many cases, "'town halls' serve not only as buildings for government functions, but also have facilities for various civic and cultural activities. These may include art shows, stage performances, exhibits and festivals. Modern town halls or "civic centres" are often designed with a great variety and flexibility of purpose in mind.
As symbols of local government, city and town halls have distinctive architecture, and the buildings may have great historical significance - for example the Guildhall, London. City hall buildings may also serve as cultural icons that symbolize their cities.
The term "town hall" may be a general one, often applied without regard to whether the building serves or served a town or a city. This is generally the case in the United Kingdom (with examples such as Manchester and Liverpool Town Halls in the cities of Manchester and Liverpool respectively), Australia (with Sydney Town Hall in the city of Sydney), New Zealand, Hong Kong, and many other Commonwealth countries.
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