Henry Fite House

Henry Fite House
Old Congress Hall
Baltimore, Maryland
December 20, 1776 to February 27, 1777

No Longer Standing
201 W Baltimore St
Baltimore, MD 21201

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Henry Fite House Old Congress Hall Baltimore, Maryland December 20, 1776 to February 27, 1777

The Second Continental Congress, to avoid capture by British forces that feigned a winter advance on capturing Philadelphia, fled to Baltimore in mid-December 1776. Although the old county Court House was offered  as a meeting place the delegates chose to meet in a private house not far from the waterfront.  The Henry Fite House was the largest building in the small hamlet of Baltimore Town.  On Friday, December 20, 1776, Congress convened in Fite's spacious three-story and attic house standing on the southwest corner of Sharpe and Baltimore Streets (now Baltimore Street and Hopkins Place). 

The house was built by Jacob Fite, and was then the farthest house west in the town.  It was a “three-story and attic brick house, of about 92 feet front on Market Street, by about 50 or 55 feet depth on the side streets, with cellar under the whole; having 14 rooms, exclusive of kitchen, wash-house and other out-buildings, including a stable for 30 horses.”  The house had a ten window-long room with two fireplaces and Congress signed a three-month lease for 180 pounds.  Additionally, unlike the Court House, Fite's Tavern was secure against a British naval attack being located beyond the shelling range of the Royal Navy should they venture up the Patapsco River.  
Congress passed notable legislation while it convened in Baltimore. On December 27th, 1776, after receiving new of the British's defeat at Trenton, N.J.,  the Continental Congress conferred upon General George Washington the "extraordinary powers for the conduct of the Revolutionary War."  

On January 18th, 1777, after news of a second victory in Princeton, John Hancock's Continental Congress ordered that a true copy of the Unanimous Declaration of The Thirteen United States of America be printed complete with the names of all the signers.  

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Mary Katherine Goddard, [1] a Baltimore Postmaster, printer and publisher, was given the original engrossed copy of the Declaration to set the type in her shop. A copy of the 1777 Goddard printing was ordered to be sent to each state so the people would know the names of the signers: 
Ordered, That an authenticated copy of the Declaration of Independency, with the names of the members of Congress subscribing the same, be sent to each of the United States, and that they be desired to have the same put upon record.

 In 1816, Old Congress Hall was purchased by international financier George Peabody (1795–1869). Old Congress Hall served as his home and office for the next 20 years.  It was in this residence that his business pursuits made him the richest man in America by mid-1830's. 

On February 22, 1894, the Sons of the American Revolution placed a large, elaborate, polished bronze memorial tablet in front of the "Henry Fite House." The plaque described the building's two month service to the nation proclaiming: "On this site stood Old Congress Hall, in which the Continental Congress met".  Above the plate containing the picture and inscription, is an ornamental cornice, with an eagle with outstretched wings on each corner, and a supported scroll-work, surmounted by a star in the center. The sides of the tablets are rounded. On one of these rounded sides are the names of seven of the original thirteen states -- Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut -- with a star between each; and on the other side the names of the other six: New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Shields decorate the lower corners.

Henry Fite House  or Old Congress Hall  sketch is from  Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Volume 46, 1873 

On February 7–8, 1904, the Old Congress Hall was consumed by the Great Baltimore Fire. Only the memorial tablet remained on the corner of the smoking ruins Today, the 1st Mariner Arena located at 201 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201 stands on the historic site of Old Congress Hall. 

[1] Mary Katherine Goddard (June 16, 1738 – August 12, 1816) was an early American publisher and the first American postmistress. She was the first to print the Declaration of Independence with the names of the signatories.  She served as Baltimore's postmaster for 14 years (1775-1789).

U.S. Continental Congress President John Hancock

United States Continental Congress Fite House Legislation:  

January 1, 1777 Appoints Benjamin Franklin commissioner to the Court of SpainJanuary 3 Directs General Washington to investigate and protest General Howe's treatment of Congressman Richard Stockton and other American prisoners. January 6 Denounces Howe's treatment of General Charles Lee and threatens retaliation against prisoners falling into American hands. January 8 Authorizes posting continental garrisons for the defense of western Virginia and financing Massachusetts' expedition against Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia. January 9 Dismisses John Morgan, director general of military hospitals, and Samuel Stringer, director of the northern department hospital. January 14 Adopts proposals to bolster Continental money and recommends state taxation to meet state quotas. January 16 Proposes appointment of a commissary for American prisoners held by the British; orders inquiry into British and Hessian depredations in New York and New Jersey. January 18 Orders distribution of authenticated copies of the Declaration of Independence containing the names of signers: 
Delaware   • George Read • Caesar Rodney • Thomas McKean [not present on Goddard Broadside] Pennsylvania   • George Clymer • Benjamin Franklin • Robert Morris • John Morton • Benjamin Rush • George Ross • James Smith • James Wilson • George Taylor Massachusetts • John Adams • Samuel Adams • John Hancock • Robert Treat Paine • Elbridge Gerry New Hampshire • Josiah Bartlett • William Whipple • Matthew Thornton Rhode Island • Stephen Hopkins • William Ellery New York • Lewis Morris • Philip Livingston • Francis Lewis • William Floyd Georgia • Button Gwinnett • Lyman Hall • George Walton Virginia  • RichardHenry Lee • Francis Lightfoot Lee • Carter Braxton • Benjamin Harrison • ThomasJefferson • George Wythe • Thomas Nelson, JrNorth Carolina • William Hooper • John Penn • Joseph Hewes  South Carolina • Edward Rutledge        • Arthur Middleton • Thomas Lynch, Jr. • Thomas Heyward, Jr. New Jersey • Abraham Clark • John Hart • Francis Hopkinson • Richard Stockton • John Witherspoon Connecticut • Samuel Huntington • Roger Sherman • William Williams • Oliver Wolcott  Maryland • Charles Carroll • Samuel Chase • Thomas Stone • William Paca, 

January 24 Provides money for holding an Indian treaty at Easton. Pa. January 28 Appoints committee to study the condition of Georgia. January 29 Directs Joseph Trumbull to conduct an inquiry into activities of his deputy commissary Carpenter Wharton. January 30 Creates standing committee on appeals from state admiralty courts. 

February 1 Orders measures for suppressing insurrection in Worcester and Somerset counties, Maryland. February 5 Orders measures for obtaining troops from the Carolinas; instructs Secret Committee on procuring supplies from France. February 6 Directs measures for the defense of Georgia and for securing the friendship of the southern Indians. February 10 Recommends temporary embargo in response to British naval "infestation" of Chesapeake Bay. February 12 Recommends inoculation of Continental troops for smallpox. February 15 Endorses the substance of the recommendations adopted at the December-January New England Conference and recommends the convening of two similar conferences in the middle and southern states. February 17 Endorses General Schuyler's efforts to retain the friend ship of the Six Nations. February 18 Directs General George Washington to conduct inquiry into military abilities of foreign officers. February 19 Elects five major generals. February 21 Rejects General Lee's request for a congressional delegation to meet with him to consider British peace overtures; elects 10 brigadier generals. February 22 resolves to borrow $13 million in loan office certificates. February 25 Adopts measures to curb desertion. February 26 Raises interest on loan office certificates from 4% to 6%. February 27 Cautions Virginia on expeditions against the Indians: adjourns to Philadelphia, to reconvene on March 5.

Capitals of the United States and Colonies of America

Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 24, 1774
May 10, 1775 to Dec. 12, 1776
Dec. 20, 1776 to Feb. 27, 1777
March 4, 1777 to Sept. 18, 1777
September 27, 1777
Sept. 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778
July 2, 1778 to June 21, 1783
June 30, 1783 to Nov. 4, 1783
Nov. 26, 1783 to Aug. 19, 1784
Nov. 1, 1784 to Dec. 24, 1784
New York City
Jan. 11, 1785 to Nov. 13, 1788
New York City
October 6, 1788 to March 3,1789
New York City
March 3,1789 to August 12, 1790
December 6,1790 to May 14, 1800
Washington DC
November 17,1800 to Present

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