Faneuil Hall and Marketplace, the eleventh stop on Boston’s Freedom Trail of historic sites, was built to be a center of commercial activity, but ended up having even greater political than economic importance.
Bostonian Peter Faneuil, through inheritance and through his activities as a merchant and slave trader, became one of the richest people in America by the 1730s. At the time there was a fierce debate in Boston as to whether there should be a major permanent central marketplace, or peddlers should continue to ply their wares door to door with pushcarts. Faneuil stepped in as a philanthropist (though also because it would be in his economic self-interest as a merchant) and funded such a marketplace for the city himself.
Construction was completed and the marketplace opened in 1742. Faneuil died in 1748 and was buried in Granary Burying Ground. Bostonians took to referring to the marketplace by his name.
Faneuil Hall is the main building. The open ground floor contained market stalls, while the second floor contained a meeting hall that turned out to be of great importance to American history.
The entire complex of buildings and outdoor stalls including Faneuil Hall is known as both Faneuil Marketplace and Quincy Market. It remains a major center of Boston shopping today.
The second floor meeting hall of Faneuil Hall developed into one of the key locations, along with the Old State House and the Old South Meeting House, for disgruntled locals to gather, denounce British tyranny, and call for resistance.
It was here that Samuel Adams (whose statue graces the front of Faneuil Hall) and other patriots denounced the Stamp Act, the Sugar Act, the Townshend Act, and the British military occupation in fiery speeches. Adams held a funeral here for the victims of the Boston Massacre. Some of the meetings that ultimately led to the Boston Tea Party were held here. Due to these activities, James Otis dubbed Faneuil Hall the “cradle of liberty.”
The building you see today is not all that similar to its original form of the 1740s. Faneuil Hall was largely destroyed by fire in 1761, and rebuilt. Later it was extensively renovated and enlarged by Charles Bulfinch in 1806. Further major alterations and renovations were done in 1899, 1979, and 1992.
After the Revolution, Faneuil Hall hosted such dignitaries as the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington while President, Commander of the U.S.S. Constitution Isaac Hull after the War of 1812, Daniel Webster, and William Lloyd Garrison. More recently, Edward Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency here in 1979, and John Kerry made his concession speech here in 2004.
Faneuil Marketplace is certainly worth a break to do some shopping and get a bite to eat when you’re walking the Freedom Trail, but it’s also worth going inside Faneuil Hall and having a look around this historic building where so much classic oratory occurred.
“Faneuil Hall.” Celebrate Boston
“Faneuil Hall.” The Freedom Trail
“Faneuil Hall Marketplace.” Boston Discovery Guide