Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall

John Smibert, 1740–1742; rebuilt 1762

Rebuilt and enlarged: Charles Bulfinch, 1805–1806

Restoration: 1898–1899; Goody, Clancy & Associates, Inc., 1992

National Historic Landmark

John Smibert, an artist, designed the original Faneuil Hall in the style of an English country market, with an open ground floor and an assembly room above. The building was a gift of French Huguenot merchant Peter Faneuil (probably pronounced funnel in his time). After a fire, the building was rebuilt in 1762 along the same lines.

By Bulfinch’s time, Faneuil Hall was becoming too cramped for the rapidly growing city, so he prepared a clever design that retained its colonial character but doubled its width and added a third floor. This increased the height of the assembly hall and provided space for the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in the attic. Four bays were added to the original three, the cupola was moved to the Dock Square end of the building, and the open arcades on the ground floor were enclosed. The building’s original dormers werechanged to barrel-shaped ones, relating to the bull’s-eye windows in the pediments. Brick pilasters in the Doric order are on the first two floors, and the new third floor was given the Ionic order. Pilasters are paired at each corner. In- side, Bulfinch added galleries on three sides of the meeting hall and numerous decorative elements, including the swag panels between the old and new windows on the east and west walls.

In 1898–1899 the hall was entirely rebuilt using noncombustible materials. Colonial Bostonians frequently put weather vanes on the tops of churches and government buildings. This one is a copper-gilt grasshopper.

As decreed in Faneuil’s gift, the meeting hall is forever to be used for discussion of public affairs. Here suffragettes advocated the vote for women, and abolitionists declaimed against slavery. To this day candidate debates and public forums are regularly held in the upstairs hall.