College Hall

College Hall
College of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
July 7, 1778 to July 20, 1778


College Hall and Dorms, Fourth Street and Arch, Philadelphia, PA contemporary view, Circa 1780, by Pierre Eugene Du Simitiere. Original is in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania  Collection 

No Longer Standing
400 Arch Street 
Philadelphia, PA 19106



On June 20th, 1778 the news that the British had evacuated Philadelphia on the 18th reached Congress.  The city was in complete celebration with barn fires, the lighting of the courthouse and fireworks.  On Wednesday June 25th the Continental Congress would adjourn on the 28th and reconvene “From this place to meet at Philadelphia, on Thursday, the second of July next.”[1]
When Franklin was told that Sir William Howe had taken Philadelphia, his answer was that it was more likely that Philadelphia had taken Sir William Howe. There can be now no question that the stay of the British army in Philadelphia in the winter and spring of 1778 was damaging to the British cause. During this occupation seven hundred of the private soldiers deserted; while the conduct of the officers was marked by a luxury in singular contrast with the stern endurance of excessive hardships shown by Washington and those who served under him at Valley Forge.[2]
College Hall Circa 1778, College of Philadelphia - Historic.us

Congress was unable to form a quorum at the Pennsylvania State House on July 2nd.  The Journals report, “According to adjournment, the president and a number of members met at the State House in Philadelphia on Thursday the 2d of July, and adjourned from day to day, to the present.” [3] Congress finally achieved a quorum on July 7th not at the State House but at the College of Philadelphia as evidenced by signer Joseph Bartlett’s letter to John Langdon on July 13, 1778:
The Congress meets in the College Hall, as the State House was left by the enemy in a most filthy and sordid situation, as were many of the public and private buildings in the City. Some of the genteel houses were used for stables and holes cut in the parlor floors and their dung shoveled into the cellars. The country Northward of the City for several miles is one common waste, the houses burnt, the fruit trees and others cut down and carried off, fences carried away gardens and orchards destroyed. Mr. Dickenson's and Mr. Morris' fine seats all demolished-in short I could hardly find the great roads that used to pass that way. The enemy built a strong abattee with the fruit and other trees from the Delaware to Schuylkill and at about 40 or 50 rods distance along the abattue a quadrangular fort for cannon and a number of redoubts for small arms; the same on the several eminences along the Schuylkill against the City.[4]




[1] JCC, 1774-1789, Journals of the Continental Congress, June 25th, 1778.
[2] Jared Sparks, ed.,, Diplomatic Correspondence of the U.S., Washington, D.C., 1830, p. 307
[3] Ibid, July 2, 1778
[4] Jordan, John W.,  "Sessions of the Continental Congress held in the College of Philadelphia in July, 1778,” Pennsylvania magazine of history and biography, Volume 22. Historical Society of Pennsylvania,, p. 114 



Water color by Charles M. Lefferts, Circa 1913, of first College of Philadelphia's campus at Fourth and Arch Streets from a sketch by Pierre Eugene DuSimitiere, ca. 1780. The original building (College Hall) is on the left, and the dormitory (or New Building) on the right.  - Image from University of Pennsylvania Archives


United States Continental Congress College Hall Legislation:  

July 2-6, 1778 Convenes in Philadelphia, but adjourns "from day to day" for lack of a quorum. July 7 Achieves quorum; thanks Washington for "gaining the important victory of Monmouth." July 9 directs committee of arrangement to repair to headquarters; Corrects engrossed Articles of Confederation and begins the signing:

New Hampshire - August 8th, 1778 : Josiah Bartlett - John Wentworth, Jr. - August 8th 1778 Massachusetts – July 9, 1778: Samuel Adams - John Hancock - Elbridge Gerry - Francis Dana -James Lovell- Samuel Holten Rhode Island: William Ellery - Henry Marchant - John Collins Connecticut - – July 9, 1778 Samuel Huntington - Roger Sherman - Oliver Wolcott -Titus Hosmer - Andrew Adams New York: James Duane - Francis Lewis - William Duer - Gouverneur Morris New Jersey - November 26, 1778: John Witherspoon - Nathaniel Scudder Pennsylvania - July 22nd, 1778: Robert Morris - Daniel Roberdeau - John Bayard Smith - William Clingan - Joseph Reed Delaware - May 5th, 1779: Thomas McKean - John Dickinson - Nicholas Van Dyke Maryland - March 1, 1781: John Hanson - Daniel Carroll – Virginia – July 9, 1778: Richard Henry Lee - John Banister - Thomas Adams - John Harvie - Francis Lightfoot Lee North Carolina - July 21st, 1778: John Penn - Corns Harnett - John Williams South Carolina – July 9, 1778: Henry Laurens - William Henry Drayton - John Mathews - Richard Hutson - Thomas Heyward, Jr. Georgia - July 24th, 1778: John Walton - Edward Telfair - Edward Langworthy


July 11 Receives news of the arrival in Delaware Bay of the French fleet carrying Conrad Alexandre Gerard and Silas Deane; directs Washington to prepare for a joint Franco-American offensive. July 14 Appoints committee to arrange public reception for the French minister Gerard. July 18 Rejects renewed overtures from the Carlisle peace commission. July 20 Endorses Ebenezer Hazard's plan to collect "various state papers relative to the origin and progress of the several European settlements in North America."


Capitals of the United States and Colonies of America

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Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 24, 1774
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September 27, 1777
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July 2, 1778 to June 21, 1783
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