Faneuil Hall (/ˈfænjəl/ or /ˈfænəl/; previously /ˈfʌnəl/), located near the waterfront and today’s Government Center, in Boston, Massachusetts, has been a marketplace and a meeting hall since 1743. It was the site of several speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others encouraging independence from Great Britain. Now it is part of Boston National Historical Park and a well-known stop on the Freedom Trail. It is sometimes referred to as “the Cradle of Liberty”.

In 2008, Faneuil Hall was rated number 4 in America’s 25 Most Visited Tourist Sites by Forbes Traveler.

History

 18th century

After the project of erecting a public market house in Boston had been discussed for some years, merchant Peter Faneuil offered, at a public meeting in 1740, to build a suitable edifice at his own cost as a gift to the town. There was a strong opposition to market houses, and although a vote of thanks was passed unanimously, his offer was accepted by a majority of only seven. Funded in part by profits from slave trading, the building was begun in Dock Square in September of the same year. It was built by artist John Smibert in 1740–1742 in the style of an English country market, with an open ground floor serving as the market house, and an assembly room above. According to Sean Hennessey, a National Park Service spokesman, some of Boston’s early slave auctions were located near Faneuil Hall.

In 1761 the hall was destroyed by fire, nothing but the brick walls remaining. It was rebuilt by the town in 1762. In 1775, during the British occupation of Boston, it was used for a theatre.

19th century

In 1806, the hall was greatly expanded by Charles Bulfinch, doubling its height and width and adding a third floor. Four new bays were added, to make seven in all; the open arcades were enclosed, and the cupola was moved to the opposite end of the building. Bulfinch applied Doric brick pilasters to the lower two floors, with Ionic pilasters on the third floor. This renovation added galleries around the assembly hall and increased its height. Neighboring Quincy Market was constructed in 1824-26. Faneuil Hall was entirely rebuilt of noncombustible materials in 1898–1899.

20th and 21st centuries

On October 9, 1960 the building was designated a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places a number of years later. The ground floor and basement were altered in 1979. The Hall was restored again in 1992 and in 1994 designated as a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Faneuil Hall is now part of a larger festival marketplace, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which includes three long granite buildings called North Market, Quincy Market, and South Market, and which now operates as an indoor/outdoor mall and food eatery. It was designed by Benjamin Thompson and Associates and managed by Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp.; its success in the late 1970s led to the emergence of similar marketplaces in other U.S. cities.

Uses

On Friday in early August 1890, one of the first black Republican legislators of Boston, Julius Caesar Chappelle, made a speech “At the Cradle of Liberty” in support of the Federal Elections bill that would help give blacks the right to vote. Chappelle was a Boston legislator from 1883-1886. The Faneuil Hall event was covered by the media in the United States, and the speech by Chappelle appeared in an August 9, 1890 article, “At the Cradle of Liberty, Enthusiastic Endorsement of the Elections Bill, Faneuil Hall again Filled with Liberty Loving Bostonians to Urge a Free Ballot and Fare Count…” on the front page of The New York Age newspaper on Saturday, August 9, 1890.

On November 7, 1979, Faneuil Hall was the site of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s speech declaring his candidacy for president. On November 3, 2004, Faneuil Hall was the site of Senator John Kerry’s concession speech in the 2004 presidential election.

On April 11, 2006, Governor Mitt Romney signed Massachusetts’ historic healthcare bill into law with a fife and drum band in Faneuil Hall before 300 ticketed guests.

On October 30, 2013, President Barack Obama delivered a defense of the Affordable Care Act from the same spot where Governor Mitt Romney signed his state’s expansion of healthcare in 2006.

On November 2, 2014, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was laid in state at Faneuil Hall following his death on October 30, 2014.

The Headquarters of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts has been in Faneuil Hall since 1746, currently on the 4th floor.

It is also still used for political debates between Massachusetts candidates as well as political shows, such as The O’Reilly Factor.

Name

Though Faneuil is a French name, it is anglicized as /ˈfænəl/ or /ˈfænjəl/. There is some evidence that it was pronounced quite differently in Colonial times, as in funnel. Peter Faneuil’s gravestone is marked “P. Funel,” although the inscription was added long after his burial. (The stone originally displayed only the Faneuil family crest, not his surname.)

Boston area locals will often use the term “Faneuil Hall” or “Fanueil” to refer to the entire surrounding neighborhood, particularly as a landmark for its vibrant nightlife.

Bell

The bell was repaired in 2007 by spraying the frozen clapper with WD-40 over the course of a week and attaching a rope. Prior to this repair, the last known ringing of the bell with its clapper was at the end of World War II, in 1945, though it had since been rung several times by striking with a mallet.

Grasshopper weather vane

The gilded grasshopper weather vane on top of the building was created by Deacon Shem Drowne in 1742. Gilded with a gold leaf, the copper weather vane weighs 80 pounds (36 kg) and is 4 feet (1.2 m) long. The weather vane is believed to be modeled after the grasshopper weather vane on the London Royal Exchange, based upon the family crest of Thomas Gresham.

Public art and landscape artwork

The area between the eastern end of Faneuil Hall and Congress Street is part of Boston National Historical Park. In this landscape is a 19th-century sculpture of Samuel Adams created by sculptor Anne Whitney. The granite plaza surface is marked for 850 feet (260 m) with the approximate location of the early Colonial shoreline c. 1630. The street layout and building plot plan designations from an 1820 map are shown by etched dashed lines and changes from pink granite to grey granite paving slabs. The shoreline marking artwork entitled, A Once and Future Shoreline, is made with etched silhouettes of seaweed, sea grass, fish, shells and other materials found along a high tide line.

Art within Faneuil Hall includes many paintings and sculpture busts of Revolutionary War activists, pre Civil War abolitionists, and political leaders.

Timeline of events

  • 1761 – Hall burned down
  • 1762 – Hall rebuilt
  • 1767 – October 28: Petition to boycott imported goods signed.
  • 1768 – Faneuil Hall is briefly used to quarter the newly arrived 14th Regiment during the occupation of Boston.
  • 1773 – December 3: Meeting about tea lately arrived on the ship Eleanor; Capt. James Bruce, Samuel Adams, Jonathan Williams, and others present
  • 1806 – Building remodelled and expanded by Charles Bulfinch
  • 1826 – Aug. 2: Daniel Webster eulogizes John Adams and Thomas Jefferson
  • 1831 – July 11- Timothy Fuller speaks “at the request of the Suffolk Anti-Masonic Committee”
  • 1834 – Sept. 6 – Edward Everett eulogizes Lafayette
  • 1837
    • Wendell Phillips speaks
    • 1st Exhibition and Fair of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association
  • 1839 – Peleg Sprague stumps for candidate William Henry Harrison
  • 1843 – July 4 – Charles Francis Adams, Sr. speaks
  • 1848 – April 15 – Edward Everett eulogizes John Quincy Adams
  • 1854 – May 26 – After arrest of Anthony Burns, public meeting “to secure justice for a man claimed as a slave by a Virginia kidnapper, and imprisoned in Boston Court House, in defiance of the laws of Massachusetts.”
  • 1863 – April 18 – Andrew Jackson Hamilton “of Texas” speaks “at the war meeting”
  • 1865 – Jan. 9 – Edward Everett speaks on “the relief of the suffering people of Savannah”
  • 1876 – June 7 – Meeting “in favor of public parks;” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. and others speak
  • 1878 – Aug. 1 – “Indignation meeting … to protest against the injury done to the freedom of the press by the conviction and imprisonment of Ezra H. Heywood”
  • 1887 – Oct. 29 – Eben Norton Horsford speaks on occasion of the unveiling of Anne Whitney’s Leif Ericson statue (installed on Commonwealth Ave.)
  • 1890 – Friday, early August – Julius Caesar Chappelle, Republican legislator of Boston, MA (1883-1886), one of the first black legislators in the United States, makes a speech (endorsing the Federal Elections bill that would help give blacks the right to vote) that was printed in The New York Age newspaper’s front page article, “At the Cradle of Liberty” on August 9, 1890.
  • 1903
    • March 4 – Frederic J. Stimson debates James F. Carey
    • March 19 – Protest “against the suppression of truth about the Philippines”
  • 1909 – May – 32nd Grand Division (Order of Railroad Conductors)ORC Convention
  • 1974 – Weathervane stolen, then returned
  • 1992 – Building restored
  • 2012 – Lower Level and First Level completely renovated by Eastern General Contractors, Inc. of Springfield, MA.

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