Carpenters' Hall
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The Right Building in the Right Place

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Believe it or not, Carpenters' Hall was for many years the largest building available for rent. Thus, it's hardly surprising that many new institutions of the country were housed here, then moved to larger quarters of their own. Franklin's Library Company was the first, followed by the American Philosophical Society, now occupying several buildings less than a block away.

While Philadelphia was the nation's capital (1790-1800), the Hall was home to its principal banks. The privately owned Bank of North America leased the Hall for two years (1791-1793). The Bank of the United States, known today as the First Bank, was organized in 1794 under the new Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and occupied the first floor until 1797, when the bank moved to its new building on Third St. The First Bank, a forerunner of our Federal Reserve system, was the first central bank not owned by a king.

One year later the Bank of Pennsylvania moved in and provided the setting for the greatest bank robbery of that era.

From 1802-1817, Carpenters' Hall was the Philadelphia Customs House, then until 1821 the Second Bank of the United States resided here. Its Greek-Revival style building on Chestnut St. is now a portrait gallery dedicated to the nation's founders.

At this point, dates and tenants begin to overlap. For example, in 1821, the Musical Fund Society rented the first floor while the Apprentices' Library occupied the second. The Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, the first institution of its kind in the world, was established at a meeting that same year. Today, the college is known as the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

In 1824 the Franklin Institute sponsored the country's first trade exhibition. More than 300 displays introduced some of America's most innovated manufactured items — camel hair brushes, carpets, coal products and a bass drum — and awarded prizes. In 1826 the Institute moved to a new building on Seventh St. now the Atwater Kent Museum.

The longest and final tenant of the 19th century (1828-1857) was an auction house which had little regard for the building and its history. Thanks to public opinion and some Company members, the auctioneer's lease was terminated, the building repaired and painted. The Company also purchased new furnishings, including twelve spittoons, two umbrella stands and a water cooler.

That September, Carpenters' Hall welcomed the first visitors — to be followed by hundreds of thousands more — to the nation's second "historic shrine" (the first was Washington's headquarters at Newburgh, New York).

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Carpenters' Hall, 320 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Open free to the public daily, except Mondays (and Tuesdays in Jan. and Feb.), from 10am-4pm

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Copyright 1999-2013 by the Independence Hall Association,
a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1942.
Publishing electronically as ushistory.org. On the Internet since July 4, 1995.