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December 29, 2022

Fire at Independence National Historical Park building was arson, NPS rangers say

The blaze set on Christmas Eve night burned in the basement of Carpenters' Hall, the building that was the site of First Continental Congress in 1774

A large fire damaged one of Philadelphia's historic landmarks on Christmas Eve — and investigators believe it was no accident.

Around 8 p.m. on Dec. 24, a National Park Service officer on foot patrol discovered the blaze in the basement of Carpenters' Hall on the 300 block of Chestnut Street. Responders from multiple agencies arrived on the scene to extinguish the fire, which is being investigated as an arson.

NPS Investigative Services Branch described the fire as "engulfing" the basement, which was being used as a storage area. Some 20th century archival material was damaged in the blaze, along with mechanical systems. No other damages were reported in the building.

"The extent of the damage and the cost of restoration/repair are still being assessed," NPS said in an emailed statement. "The archival material has been taken off site to analyze for possible preservation and conservation."

According to 6abc, someone broke into the building before starting the fire.

Carpenters' Hall is part of the Independence National Historical Park, a federally protected site that also includes Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The two-story brick building hosted the First Continental Congress in 1774, and secret meetings between Benjamin Franklin and French envoy Julien Achard de Bonvouloir to coordinate French support for the American Revolution.

Carpenters' Hall also housed Franklin's Library Company of Philadelphia between 1731 and 1791, the First Bank of the United States in 1794 and wounded soldiers during the Revolutionary War. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

The National Park Service is seeking tips from the public, particularly anyone who may have been in Old City on Christmas Eve. Those with information can call or text the tip line at (888) 653-0009, send an email to or use this online form. Information can be provided anonymously.

This story has been updated with additional information from the National Park Service.

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