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Founders Hall
2101 S. College Avenue
Philadelphia, Pa 19121
Cross Street: Enterprise Avenue
215-787-2600
Hours of Operation
Walk-in visitation is on Thursdays only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  It is free to the public.  Please note that stairs are unavoidable at Founder’s Hall.  The building is closed on major holidays

Founder’s Hall at Girard College (1833 – 1847) is often considered the finest example of Greek revival architecture in America.  The dead client for the building was Stephen Girard (1750 - 1831), the school’s founder, who specified in his will the dimensions and plan of the building.  The live client was Nicholas Biddle (1786 -1844), Chairman of the school’s Building Committee and President of the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia.

Girard’s will specified that there would be an architectural competition to win the job of designing his school.  His two million dollar construction budget ensured that the 1832 competition was the first American architectural competition to have truly national participation.  The winning architect was Thomas Ustick Walter (1804 – 1887).  After the long, difficult job at Girard, Walter went on to design the dome of the United State Capitol in Washington, D.C.  He later returned to Philadelphia, was an assistant architect on City Hall and a founding member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).  Some Girard College visitors come only because they want to see a great, early T.U. Walter building.

Founder’s Hall was the school’s original classroom building. It has three main floors, each measuring 14,000 square feet.  The plan for each floor, as specified in Girard’s will, consists of a 100’ x 20’front hall, then four 50’ square rooms with 25’ ceilings arranged two-by-two, and a back hall the same size as the front.  The scale of the spaces was dazzlingly large when the building first opened and Founder’s Hall was one of Philadelphia’s great 19th century tourist destinations.  

Two final points: 1) Nicholas Biddle was so happy with T. U. Walter’s work at Girard that in 1834 he hired Walter to convert the Biddle country seat, “Andalusia” in Bucks County, PA, from a large Pennsylvania farmhouse in what is often considered the finest example of domestic Greek revival architecture in America.  2) When Founder’s Hall was finally completed in 1847, it was the second most expensive building in America, second only to the United States Capitol!  

For more information about Founder's Hall and other Philadelphia landmarks, please visit www.PhiladelphiaArchitects.org.

  • Group Tours: Group Tours for 10 or more persons,can be made by advance reservation on other days of the week, generally Monday – Friday. Group tours can also include a demonstration of the remarkable Girard College Chapel organ, as scheduling permits. There is a fee for group tours. For information and reservations, call 215-787-4434.
  • Girard Collection: The Stephen Girard Collection is Philadelphia’s great intact single-owner collection from the early national period. These original items (1780 – 1830), including furniture, silver, paintings, ceramics and textiles, were owned and used by Stephen Girard in his Philadelphia townhouse at 23 North Water Street. The rare survival of both Girard’s artifacts and archives means that for many objects we know original maker, year of manufacture and purchase price. Most of the furnishings were made in Philadelphia, France or China. The extensive silver collection represents products of Philadelphia, England and France. Most of the artifacts are included in the illustrated catalog The Stephen Girard Collection (Girard College, 1980). The booklet is available as a reference volume by appointment at Founder’s Hall. It can also be purchased and shipped to interested individuals. The Girardiana Collection includes ephemera items detailing the history of the school, 1848 – present. It includes a wide variety of three-dimensional memorabilia relating to the students, faculty and campus.
  • Archival Collections: The Architectural Drawings Collection This group includes most of the 1832 competition drawings for Girard College and many of T. U. Walter’s construction drawings for the original campus. Most of the images are published in the book Monument to Philanthropy: The Design and Building of Girard Collect 1832 – 47 (Girard College, 1998). This book can be used as a reference volume by appointment at Founder’s Hall. It can also be purchased and shipped to interested individuals.This nationally significant collection is available on microfilm to scholars at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.
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