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Carpenters' Hall

Posted on Monday, June 13, 2016

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The Birthplace of American Identity

The History

Carpenters’ Hall was built in 1770 by the Carpenters’ Company, the oldest extant craft guild in the United States, founded in 1724.  In 1774 Carpenters’ Hall would provide the meeting place for the First Continental Congress of America.  Led by Peyton Randolph of Virginia, this historic congress represented the first time a large majority of the American Colonies had sent delegates to meet together.
Carpenters' Hall - Meeting Place of the First Continental Congress and Birthplace of the American Identity  
The delegates were spurred to meet following the backlash against Boston by the British Government following the Boston Tea Party.  In the meeting they came together and were able to devise a list of rights that they felt the colonies were entitled to.  Known as the “Declaration of Rights and Grievances”, this document outlined the rights of the colonies, as well as made a list of demands that Britain was expected to adhere to.  
It was within the Second Continental Congress that delegates from different colonies began to think of themselves as one united people. Patrick Henry, a member of the congress from Virginia famously remarked at Carpenter’s Hall in 1774:  
"The distinction between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders, are no more, I am not a Virginian, but an American!”
Patrick Henry - Founding Father of the United States and of the American Identity
Henry’s words help to explain why we today call Carpenter’s Hall “the Birthplace of American Identity.”  While America would not declare its Independence until two years later in 1776, it was the meetings at Carpenter’s Hall that made what happened at Independence Hall possible.  The events at Carpenters’ Hall began to unite the American Colonies in a way they had never been united before.
Carpenters' Hall - Meeting Place of the First Continental Congress and Birthplace of the American Identity
Carpenters’ Hall would continue to be a building of great importance after the First Continental Congress.  The hall would serve as both a hospital and an arsenal for British and American troops during the Revolutionary War. It is said that it was within Carpenters’ Hall that Benjamin Franklin had a series of clandestine meetings with Julien Archard de Bonvouloir, French Envy to the American Colonies in an attempt to secure French aide during the fight for American Independence.  Carpenters’ Hall was also the temporary home of both the First and Second Banks of the United States.  It was also within Carpenters’ Hall that numerous institutions were founded including the Franklin Institute.

What to See

Carpenters’ Hall was the first privately owned building to be opened as an historic monument.  Today the hall is free and open to public all year round and is a must see for tourists exploring history in Philadelphia.  The building is still owned by the Carpenters’ Company today and inside you’ll find members of the company on hand to help show you the history of Carpenters’ Hall.  Inside a number of exhibits and a lot of information help to contextualize the importance of both the Carpenters’ Company and the First Continental Congress.  One exhibit shows you the types of tools that 18th century builders would have used in Philadelphia.  Another exhibit shows a construction model of Carpenters’ Hall itself.  
Model of construction of Carpenters' Hall
Also of interest within Carpenters’ Hall is a banner that dates all the way back to 1789. The banner was carried by Carpenters’ Company member, Gunning Bedford, in a parade held to celebrate the ratification of the United States Constitution. You can even sit in a replica of the chair that Peyton Randolph is believed to have sat in during the First Continental Congress of America.
While you’re looking at the exhibits, don’t forget to take in the beauty of the building itself. Designed by Robert Smith in the Georgian Style with a mostly brick facade, Carpenters’ Hall is a beautiful building.  Outside, pay special attention to the detailed brickwork laid in a style that is known as Flemish bond brickwork.  You’ll notice that the bricks appear in a checker board pattern, a look that is achieved by blackening the ends of bricks with a burned glaze. This pattern can be found on historic buildings throughout Philadelphia, but the work at Carpenters’ Hall is exceptional.

Insider Info

Carpenters’ Hall is one of the most important buildings in the history of the United States of America. It was within this hallowed hall that delegates from different colonies, with different viewpoints, began to unite around a common cause and think of themselves as one people, as Americans. It was such a pivotal meeting in the history of America and yet it is also a place that so many tourists to Philadelphia miss. Set back from Chestnut Street and down an alley way, Carpenters’ Hall is not the most visible historic site in Philadelphia.
Banner carried by Carpenters' Copmany during parade celebrating the ratification of the Constitution
But guests of The Constitutional Walking Tour never miss Carpenters’ Hall. We takes guests to Carpenters' Hall on every single tour we give.  The idea of America beginning to come together and unite is an idea that is important to many Americans.  When we take our guests to Carpenters’ Hall, we help to fill in the details of this important event and to show you the place where this unity was actually forged. To ensure you don’t walk past anything important on your trip to Philadelphia, be sure to take a tour with The Constitutional Walking Tour!

How to Get There

Carpenters’ Hall is located on Chestnut St, close to the corner of 4th Street.  The building is set back from Chestnut Street on the South side of the street.  While guests of The Constitutional Walking Tour will see Carpenters’ Hall on their tour, guests who wish to return and explore further will find Carpenters’ Hall to be a very short walk from the National Constitution Center where all of our tours begin and end.  Simply walk down 5th Street towards Chestnut St and make a left.  Carpenters’ Hall will be on your right in less than two blocks.
Driving to Carpenters’ Hall is also easy as there are multiple parking garages within a block of Carpenter’s Hall.  The Hall also easily reached by public transit as it is located less than two blocks away from 5th Street Station on the Market Frankford Line.

Hours of Operation 

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 10:00AM to 4:00PM (closed January and February)
Wednesday: 10:00AM to 4:00PM (closed January and February)
Thursday: 10:00AM to 4:00PM
Friday: 10:00AM to 4:00PM
Saturday: 10:00AM to 4:00PM
Sunday: 10:00AM to 4:00PM
Note: these hours are subject to change.

Additional Information

320 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19106

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