Old Town Hall
Visit Old Town Hall
When Old Town Hall was built in 1798 it was one of the tallest buildings in Wilmington. For almost a century it functioned as both a center of political and social activities. Styled after Philadelphia’s Congress Hall, this handsome Federal-style structure served the city until 1916 hosting elections, town meetings, a subscription library, and criminal and civil trials. Lawbreakers feared its unheated and spartan basement cells.
Old Town Hall hosted receptions and dinners for notables such as the Marquis de Lafayette and President Andrew Jackson. The death of George Washington was observed in Old Town Hall in 1799 and Henry Clay’s body laid in state there in 1852. The Historical Society of Delaware (now the Delaware Historical Society) purchased the building in 1917 and completed its restoration by 1927.
Old Town Hall’s original bronze bell, which hung in the cupola from 1800 until 1875, is now located across the street between the Simms House and the Library. The bell, cast in England, was purchased by Joseph Tatnall (1740-1813), a prosperous local miller and merchant who also purchased the clock for the building. The bell worked with the clock to strike on the hour and could also be rung manually to sound a fire alarm, summon citizens to meetings, or to mark a period of public celebration or mourning.
The bell was removed when the original cupola was replaced by a larger one in 1875. The bell then passed to the Phoenix Fire Company before being donated to the Delaware Historical Society by the heirs of Joseph Tatnall in 1933.
What to Know About Visiting Old Town Hall
Old Town Hall 360
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