Built between 1770 and 1774, Philadelphia’s Carpenter Hall once served as the temporary home for the First Continental Congress (September 5 to October 26, 1774). It was built , and is still owned by, the “Carpenters Company of the City and County of Philadelphia,” America’s oldest surviving craft guild. (Membership in the Company is by nomination from existing members and has consistently had nearly 900 on its roles in its three hundred year history). Although the Carpenter’s Company was officially founded in 1774, its roots date back to the founding of the city itself in 1682. At that time, many of its members were Quakers “... whose beliefs influenced the Company’s mission to promote fair business dealings...”. During those early days, the Company had no place of their own in which to meet, instead renting taverns etc. for their gatherings. Finally, by 1768, realizing they needed more suitable quarters, they purchased the current site on Chestnut Street and began construction two years later. The layout of the building is based on the town halls of Scotland, as well as the designs of Andrea Pallodino (considered one of the most influential Italian architects in history). The building, which was still under construction, was first used as a meeting place in January of 1771. Meetings continued to be held here until the British captured Philadelphia in 1777. It was while meeting in this Hall that Congress resolved to ban further imports of slaves and to begin to discontinue the slave trade in the colonies. During the American Revolutionary War, Carpenter Hall served as a hospital for both British and American troops. Between 1802 and 1819, Philadelphia’s Federal Custom House was located in this building. Carpenter Hall was designated a National Historic Landmark in April of 1970 and is part of the Independence National Historic Park.
In the days of its founding,”Company” was the term used for an association (or guild). The founders were Master Builders, skilled not only in carpentry, but also engineering and architecture. As such, they controlled the quality and cost of construction in the city and supported the needs of their members and their families.
An artist’s depiction of Patrick Henry (of Virginia on the left) talking with John Adams (right)and Sam Adams (middle), both from Massachusetts, outside Carpenter Hall.