When I walked out of the Customs House, my first stop was Carpenters’ Hall located on the next block.
Carpenters’ Hall was built in 1770 for the Carpenters’ Company of Philadelphia–a society of master craftsmen patterned after the guilds of England. To this day, the guild still owns and maintains it.
When I passed through the gated brick wall entrance, the sun was directly in my camera which resulted in a second-rate photo. The entrance to the building faces north.
In 1774, Carpenters’ Hall was the first meeting place of the Continental Congress. The delegates from 12 colonies (Georgia abstained) met first at City Tavern (Smith’s) and then walked over to the spacious Carpenters’ Hall.
They gathered here and voted to support a trade embargo against England; this was one of the first unified acts of defiance against the King. This historical meeting was Carpenters’ Hall claim to fame.
As I approached the entrance, I paused to read a couple of signs.
As I stepped closer I was able to block the sun and capture this photo of the beautiful gable with ornate trim. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the cupola in the photo (you’ll see it below in another photo).
Craftsmen built this building for fellow craftsmen. The Flemish bond brick pattern is an impeccable example of Georgian architecture. (12 over 12 windows feature keystone and paneled wooden shutters.)
“Flemish Bond” is a style with decorative, blackened ends, called glazed headers, laid at right angles to the wall in order to help tie together interior courses of brick.
A simple floor plan…
Imagine, even Thomas Jefferson couldn’t get his hands on a copy of the Rule Book.
I walked up the steps, opened the door and stepped inside. I was in a foyer where construction tools from the 1700s are on display in a glass case. On the right is a staircase leading to the second floor, which back in 1774, was occupied by the committees. (Second floor is private.)
All was quiet and I wondered if I was the only person visiting on a Thursday morning before lunch. I studied the old tools and then stepped into the large room which was occupied by congress 243 years ago. (It becomes crowded with school field trips in the spring).
I saw a fireplace on the east side of the room and another fireplace on the west side (above photo). A volunteer approached welcoming me, and said if I had any questions, for me to ask away.
Note: If any of you have the opportunity to visit, look for the Masonic symbol on the black and white tiled floor.
The banner above the east fireplace was carried by Gunning Bedford in the parade marking ratification of the Constitution. It’s well preserved and under glass.
A scale model is near the center of the room depicting 18th century methods used in the building’s construction. It took the model shop at the Hagley Museum near Wilmington, Delaware over two years to construct the model.
The doorway lacks the fan window, which was installed 20 years after the building was constructed (see fan window in above photo).
I walked to the other side of the model and got a closer look. I thought not much has really changed in the last 200 + years. The mason laying the brick on the chimney appears to have done it in the same way that our mason did our chimney.
Brick Masonry: Then vs Now…
Other than three other visitors who came in after me I had the whole place to myself. When I walked out, I proceeded down the brick walk, stopped and looked back (looking east toward the Delaware River) and took this photo showing the cupola with finial and lantern.
The finial is the Masonic symbol (builder’s square and compass). The lantern is covered, not allowing light into the cupola.
Admission to Carpenters’ Hall is Free. For more information, visit Carpenters’ Hall website.
For a walking tour guide, click here.
Would you like to know where to stay in Old City/Philadelphia? e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org