Well-known Tenants of Carpenters' Hall

  • In 1773, Franklin's Library Company, the first free-lending library, moved in before the building was complete and remained for 17 years, serving as the Congressional library for both Congresses. In 1790, the Library Company moved to its new building, erected in part by Company members who also were subscribers, on Fifth Street.
  • The Hall served as infirmary, first for American, then British soldiers, from 1776-78.
  • The War Office used the Hall as an arsenal from 1778-79, from which expeditions were fitted out.
  • The American Philosophical Society, the country's first scientific organization, met in Carpenters' Hall for five years, starting in 1780, until their own building was completed. The original building stands behind Old City Hall on Fifth Street. The Society's new building constructed by Company members on Library Place (just west of the Second Bank) holds many Jefferson papers and the collection of papers as well as artifacts from the Lewis & Clark Expedition, sponsored by President Jefferson.
  • General Henry Knox, who advised Washington to make the Christmas night attack on Trenton, established headquarters in Carpenters' Hall, in 1790, making it the "First Pentagon." General Knox moved to New Hall when it was completed in 1791.
  • The Bank of North America, a private bank, occupied Carpenters' Hall's first floor, from 1791-93. About this time, it is speculated, the partitions separating two rooms on the first floor were removed, and columns were installed.
  • From 1794-1797, the Bank of the United States, organized by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, resided in the Hall until its new building (known as The First Bank) was completed on Third Street. A British visitor remarked this was the first time a central bank was not owned by a monarch. The Bank of the United States marked the beginnings of our Federal Reserve system.
  • From 1801-1817, the Philadelphia Customs House was located in the Hall.
  • The Second Bank of the United States resided here for a time, 1816-1821, until its building on the next block was completed. The Second Bank was completed and opened in 1824.
  • In 1821, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, the first institution of its kind in the world, was established in the Hall.
  • From 1824-1826, the Franklin Institute met here and held the country's first trade exhibition, with over 300 exhibits of American manufactured goods. The Institute eventually moved to its new building on 7th Street, now the Atwater Kent Museum.
  • In 1833, the Company's school of architecture, one of the nation's first, began holding classes on what was then the third floor of New Hall. The first instructor was George Strickland, brother of famed architect William Strickland, who designed the Second Bank of the U.S. and the Philadelphia Merchants' Exchange.
  • From 1828-1857, the longest tenant was the auction house of C.J. Wolbert & Co. As concern grew to preserve buildings related to the Revolution, the Company decided to terminate this lease and renovate the Old Hall. The Company had been under some pressure by historian Benson Lossing, who, in 1848, took members to task for permitting the auctioneer to abuse the historic building. Carpenters' Hall was then opened to the public in 1857 as an historic monument.
America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.
— Harry Truman