As new municipal governments were created in Ontario in the second half of the 19th century, ambitious buildings were erected to house them. More complex in function than smaller rural town halls, these municipal government buildings were designed as combined function structures.
Incorporated as a village in 1853, a town in 1858 and city in 1885, Stratford grew rapidly during the last quarter of the 19th century due in large part to the establishment of two railway engine repair shops. The first town hall and market was destroyed by fire in November 1897. The cornerstone for a new city hall was laid in November 1898 and the building was opened in 1900. The new City Hall on the site of Stratford's former town hall marked a notable addition to the late-19th-century streetscape. Under threat of demolition in the 1960s, and again in the early 1970s, the building was saved by a citizens group. Stratford City Hall was renovated in 1974 and remains in municipal use today.
Designed by prominent Toronto architect George King and local architect John Wilson Sidall to a Neo-Jacobean design, and built by contractors John Lant Young and Edmund Cawsey, this red brick building with sandstone trim and a St. Mary's limestone plinth was fitted to an irregular triangular site. It was reputed that sandstone was used as local brick makers were unable to supply a consistent colour of white brick. The two side and apex façades are similar in design using a variety of round- and square-headed windows with decorated gables that pierce the line of the eaves at regular intervals. Decorative features include tin brackets and finials. The apex façade contains the main entrance to the building and is approached by a substantial flight of steps. The entrance comprises a double door under a semi-circular arch with banded voussoirs, flanked by pilasters supporting decorative strap work. The building is distinguished by a hexagonal clock tower.
The building was designated a National Historic Site in 1976. In 1982, the City of Stratford designated City Hall under the Ontario Heritage Act and, in 1985, the Ontario Heritage Trust secured a heritage easement on the building.