Faneuil Hall

views updated May 23 2018


FANEUIL HALL, a historic Boston structure fondly called "The Cradle of Liberty," because of its association with American Revolutionary figures Samuel Adams and James Otis. William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass spoke in the Great Hall room, where the colossal painting Webster's Reply to Hayne celebrates the senator's ringing defense of the Union. Susan B. Anthony and others added luster to this treasured landmark.

The merchant Peter Faneuil gave Faneuil Hall to the town of Boston in 1742. The red brick structure was originally designed by John Smibert as a two-story building with a marketplace on the street level and a meeting room overhead. The building burned in 1761 and was replaced at public expense through a lottery. The Boston architect Charles Bulfinch designed an expanded structure in 1805–1806 adding another floor above, widening the structure, and moving the cupola forward to its present location at a cost of less than $57,000. Faneuil Hall was restored in both 1898–1899 (for nearly $105,000) and in 1992 (for

six million dollars), but it continues to be topped by the distinctive copper weathervane shaped in the form of a grasshopper that Peter Faneuil had made for it. The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company occupies the top floor of the edifice. Since its eighteenth-century use for town meetings and offices Faneuil Hall has served Bostonians as a site for civic discourse and heated debate. The first floor continues to be a marketplace, albeit one that caters to tourists, while the Great Hall maintains its status as an arena for political and community purposes.


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Warden, G. B. Boston, 1689–1776. Boston: Little, Brown, 1970.

Whitehill, Walter Muir, and Lawrence W. Kennedy. Boston: A Topographical History. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000.

Wilson, Susan. Boston Sites and Insights. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.

Lawrence W.Kennedy