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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 room.

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 vacated.

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 headquarters.

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.

 

Headquarters: 4th Floor Faneuil Hall


 
   

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