J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Fundraising for Security at Carpenters’ Hall

Carpenters’ Hall was built and owned by the Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia.

The guild started meeting in the building in 1771, though they continued working on it until 1775. By the fall of 1774 it was in good enough shape to host the First Continental Congress.

With delegates from twelve colonies participating, this was the broadest continental resistance gathering yet. It sent a petition to King George III, trying to go over the head of his ministers, and it called on Americans to adopt the Continental Association, a widespread boycott of British goods.

Later the Pennsylvania Provincial Conference and Convention met in Carpenters’ Hall to declare independence for that state, take control of the militia, and set up a new state constitution. (Meanwhile, the Second Continental Congress had taken over the nearby Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall.)

Carpenters’ Hall remains the property of the Carpenters’ Company, but it’s also part of Independence National Historical Park, with National Park Service rangers leading free tours and programs.

For most of 2022, the building was closed for a $3 million renovation. It was due to reopen early this year.

On Christmas Eve, an N.P.S. officer discovered a fire in the building’s basement. Sprinklers went off, containing the flames, though that water harmed some files. Upper parts of the building sustained only smoke damage. Investigators determined the fire had been deliberately set.

The Carpenters’ Company has set up a Go Fund Me page for recovering from this arson, saying:
While insurance will cover much of the destruction, Carpenters' Hall will need to commit to new improvements to prevent another tragedy from occurring again in the future. Public donations will help to fund an improved security system, including new security cameras, fire protection systems, fireproof archival storage, and environmental protections for our collections.

As we look towards the 250th anniversary of the First Continental Congress in just over a year, it is more vital than ever that we reopen the Hall as it was intended: as a meeting place for the community, a civic forum, and a building for the people.
This effort seeks to raise $100,000 to preserve this historic building from future harm.

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