Stephen Girard’s 1831 will left an unprecedented $2 million construction budget to build a school to educate poor orphans. He left meticulous instructions for the original classroom building, now known as Founder’s Hall. It was to be built of masonry and marble, have four 50’x 50’ classrooms on each of three floors, front and rear vestibules, and staircases in the four corners. In, 1832, Thomas Ustick Walter won the architectural competition to design the school; he would later become a founding member of the American Institute of Architects and would design the U.S. Capitol dome.
Built from 1833-1847, Founder’s Hall is one of the best examples of Greek Revival architecture in America and the second-most expensive building built prior to the Civil War. An 1864 guidebook marveled, “[It] is one of the most beautiful structures of modern times, as a work of art alone.” Founder’s Hall was placed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places at its inception in 1956 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1969. As steward of this significant structure, Girard College has pursued a preservation plan over the last 25 years which has included a new roof over the historic marble roof, restoration of the monumental windows and doors, and masonry conservation. Founder’s Hall has recently completed a $12-million renovation project to support increased use of the space through event and larger education uses. Join us on a tour led by Kathy Haas, Director of Historical Resources at Girard College, to see the completed Founder’s Hall renovation.