The Town House was built in 1659 through the generosity of
Robert Keayne, the first commander of the Company. His
will stipulated that a space be set aside for the use of the
Military Company. The Town House burned in 1711 and was rebuilt
in 1713 to house both the Town and Provincial governments.
The Town honored Keayne's will by having a space set aside
for the Artillery Company. In 1742 through the generosity
of Peter Faneuil, a market place was designed and built by
John Smibert at the Town dock, an open market on the ground
floor with a meeting room and offices above it. By 1746 space
in the Town House was at a premium so the Ancients were transferred
to Faneuil Hall.
None of these buildings were large enough to allow the Company
to have an Armory or meeting room. They generally held their
meetings at a tavern in town and drilled on the Common. In
1773 with British soldiers encamped on the Common, the Ancients
performed their drill on Copp's Hill.
By 1800 it became apparent that
Faneuil Hall was too small to hold meetings. In 1805 Charles
Bulfinch designed a new building four times the size of the
original. A fourth floor was added about which Bulfinch wrote:
"Above the Great Hall is another, 76 foot long and 30
feet wide devoted to the exercise of the different military
corps of the town with a number of apartments on each side
for depositing their arms, where those of several companies
are arranged and kept in perfect order. The military hall
is lighted by large semi-circular windows at the ends, and
lutherns through the roof at the sides." The Ancients
occupied one of the apartments. An 1853 plan of the floor
shows the Company in the apartment that is now the curator's
By 1880 all other militia units had moved from Faneuil Hall,
leaving the Ancients the sole occupants of the fourth floor.
It was at this time that a
Committee of the Museum and Library was formed. By 1895
the building was near to collapse. It was decided to restore
the sagging structure. A new foundation was put in place and
the roof taken off to remove all the wooden beams. They were
replaced with steel trusses. The 30 foot exercise or armory
was now widened to 48 feet and the apartments made smaller.
Now all of the walls of the building lined up. The new walls
of the armory matched the Ionic and Doric columns of the second
and third floors.
To celebrate this new home, the Company commissioned five
Boston artists to do thirteen historical paintings of Massachusetts
significance. They still hang on the walls of the Armory.
In 1924 another restoration was done to upgrade the electrical
system and in 1937 a one and one half man elevator was installed
from the second to the fourth floor. In 1937 bronze plaques
were attached to the stairway to the
"Captain's Quarters" and in 1967 the flags were
added to complete the "Stairway
to the Constitution." By the early 1970s the building
had fallen into disrepair and almost all the merchants had
Mayor Kevin White entered into a public-private partnership
with Maryland developer James Rouse to create a "festival
marketplace." In August 1976 the marketplace opened as
part of the city's bicentennial celebration. Faneuil Hall's
first floor is the location of handicrafts and souvenir stores
offering a variety of Boston memorabilia. Food vendors also
occupy booth space. The second floor is the location of the
Great Hall where town meetings were once held. The Great Hall
is operated by the National Park Service.
Another major restoration of the building forced the Company
to move from its Headquarters to the Coast Guard Station on
Commercial Street from September 1990 to September 1992. The
Company returned to a clean, climate controlled Armory and
The Great Hall contains paintings including that of George
Healy depicting Webster Replying to Hayne. Daniel Webster,
Charles Sumner, Frederick Douglass, John F. Kennedy and Wendell
Phillips delivered speeches in this hall.
The top floor is the location of the
museum, library and armory of the Ancient and Honorable
Artillery Company of Massachusetts.