Carpenters' Hall reopens in time for July 4th after Christmas Eve arson

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Monday, July 3, 2023
Carpenters' Hall reopens for July 4th after Christmas Eve arson
Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia is reopening in time of the Fourth of July after an arsonist set the basement on fire last Christmas Eve.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- After a fire set by an arsonist damaged Carpenters' Hall on Christmas Eve, the historic Philadelphia site finally reopened to the public on Monday - just in time for the Fourth of July holiday.

Many history experts refer to Carpenters' Hall in the Old City section of Philadelphia as the birthplace of Pennsylvania and the United States.

It was built in 1774 and survived events like the Revolutionary War, but the past year has presented challenges that kept the building closed... until now.

"It's beautiful," exclaimed Emily Vanarelli of East Passyunk as she was among the people who came in to see the building on the first day of its grand re-opening.

The beauty of Carpenters' Hall is easy to see. What it took to make it so beautiful is not so easy to see.

Police are investigating an arson at Carpenters' Hall within Independence National Historical Park in the Old City section of Philadelphia.

"A full exterior renovation of bricks, millwork, windows," said Carpenters' Company Executive Director Michael Norris, listing a few of the many renovation projects that have taken place.

Norris made his comments during the grand re-opening ceremony for Carpenters' Hall on Monday.

"The single, most historic square mile and all of the United States is right here," said Congressman Brendan Boyle (D - Pennsylvania).

Carpenters' Hall was the site of the First Continental Congress. It's the building where delegates such as George Washington, John Adams, and Patrick Henry developed a plan for America's independence.

"We like to say this is where the United States was born," said Norris.

The building is an impressive site for locals and visitors alike.

"I think a lot of people like me who live in the city probably don't know a lot about the history of the places we are so close to," said Vanarelli of visiting the historic site in her own backyard.

Prash Patel came from a lot farther to take in the historic sights. He visited Philadelphia from London, England for a wedding but wanted to see Carpenters' Hall during his time here with his family.

"To just feel that this is where the decisions were being made by people who felt they just needed to have a little fairness and equity-- that's incredible," he said.

The plan in 2022 had been to give the 250-year-old building a sprucing up with a $3million renovation starting in April of 2022. The building was on schedule to reopen in February of 2023, but then tragedy struck when an arsonist targeted the building.

"The plan came to a screeching halt on Christmas Eve when someone broke into the basement of Carpenters' Hall and intentionally started a fire," Norris said.

The person who started that fire in the basement still hasn't been caught.

That Christmas Eve fire caused extensive damage to the basement and destroyed a number of archives - though the oldest materials were housed safely off-site - but it didn't destroy the mission of the Carpenters' Company, which is made up of 180 architects, building contractors and structural engineers.

With help from sponsors, the group was able to complete $1.3 million worth of work to fix the fire damage.

"It's amazing what human hands can do, the craftsmanship of it all," said Tanya Eliason of University City as she visited Carpenters' Hall Monday afternoon with her mother.

Visitors applauded as one of the guides shared the news that it was the first day that the historic site had been reopened to the public, which happened on the day before the Fourth of July.

One exciting part of the renovation is the fact that crews found some artifacts in the original foundation of Carpenters' Hall. Those artifacts are now part of a new exhibit in the historic building.

For more information about Carpenters' Hall, visit