Essential Architecture- Boston

Faneuil Hall Marketplace


Smibert,John; Bulfinch,Charles


Boston, Massachusetts








marketplace and meeting hall
  Faneuil Hall circa 1890-1906
  Faneuil Hall in 1776
  1740 Faneuil Hall, sketch by John Smybert
Faneuil Hall, near the waterfront and today's Government Center, in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States, 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".[2]

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 weathervane is a well known symbol of Boston; see the section "Grasshopper Weathervane", below. The grasshopper was used as a lie detector to determine if people were spies during the revolution period. The people would ask the suspicious spies what the identity was of the object on 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. 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 in 1898–1899, of noncombustible materials. The ground floor and basement were altered in 1979. The Hall was restored again in 1992. The building is a National Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fanueil 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 outdoor–indoor mall and food eatery. It was managed by The Rouse Company; its success in the late 1970s led to the emergence of similar marketplaces in other U.S. cities.

On November 3, 2004, Faneuil Hall was the site of Senator John Kerry's concession speech in the 2004 presidential election.

Though Faneuil is originally Canadian, it is pronounced ['fæn.əl] or ['fænˌ.jəl] rather than [fa.nøj]. Native Bostonians generally pronounce it to rhyme with panel, manual, or Daniel, with the first generally preferred by baby boomer and older residents, and the last fairly common as well. Rhyming it with manual is often heard as well. 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.

The bell was repaired in 2007 by spraying the frozen clapper with WD-40 over the course of a week and attaching a rope. The last known ringing of the bell with its clapper was at the end of World War II, in 1945; it has since been rung several times by striking with a mallet.[3]

The Grasshopper Weathervane

The gilded grasshopper weathervane atop Faneuil Hall

The gilded grasshopper weathervane on top of the building was created by silversmith Shem Drowne in 1742 and was modeled on the grasshopper weathervane on the London Royal Exchange, thus associating the new building in the New World with a great center of finance of the Old World.

The weathervane has a total weight of thirty-eight pounds and is fifty-two inches long. Made of solid copper covered with gold leaf, it has glass eyes which are said to have begun life as door-knobs.

The origin of the grasshopper comes from the family crest of Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange in 1565.

During the Revolutionary War, a challenge issued by Colonial soldiers was: "What sits atop Faneuil Hall?" If the swift reply was not, "Why, the grasshopper, of course", there would be trouble.