Faneuil Hall

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 1742. It was the site of several speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others encouraging independence from Great Britain, and is now 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".

18th c.

The original Faneuil Hall was built by artist John Smibert in 1740–1742 in the style of an English country market, with an open ground floor and an assembly room above, and funded by a wealthy Boston merchant, Peter Faneuil. The ground floor was originally used to house African sheep brought over from the northwestern region of New Hampshire. The program was short lived however, due to a shortage of sheep and reasoning behind the program in the first place.

The grasshopper weather vane is a well known symbol of Boston; see the section "Grasshopper weather vane," below. Knowledge of the grasshopper was used as a shibboleth during the Revolution period. The people would ask suspected spies the identity of the object on the top of Faneuil Hall; if they answered correctly, then they were free; if not, they were convicted as British spies.

The hall burned down in 1761 but was rebuilt in 1762.

19th c.

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. The building was entirely rebuilt of noncombustible materials in 1898–1899.

20th-21st c.

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.

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 The Rouse Company; its success in the late 1970s led to the emergence of similar marketplaces in other U.S. cities.

Uses of Faneuil Hall

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.

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

Faneuil Hall is the home of the Boston Classical Orchestra, a professional orchestra, which has been performing in the "Great Hall" there regularly since 1980.

On Friday May 13th of 2011 Kevin James, Salma Hayek, and the rest of the cast and crew shot scenes for the upcoming feature film "Here Comes the Boom" in and around Faneuil Hall.


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.)

Building elements

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.

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


Grasshopper weather vane

The gilded grasshopper weather vane on top of the building was created by Deacon Shem Drowne in 1742. Gilded with gold leaf, the copper weather vane weighs eighty pounds and is four feet 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.

Timeline of events

  • 1761 - Building burns down
  • 1762 - Hall rebuilt
  • 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.)
  • 1903
    • March 4 - Frederic J. Stimson debates James F. Carey
    • March 19 - Protest "against the suppression of truth about the Philippines"
  • 1974 - Weathervane stolen, then returned
  • 1992 - Building restored

Building Activity

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