Benjamin Franklin Hall
The Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank was an important Philadelphia institution of long standing and the largest bank in the city during the latter part of the 19th century. Its headquarters at 427 Chestnut Street, was opened in 1855. Designed by John Myers Gries (1828-1862), the building incorporated a number of structural and environmental innovations from the previous twenty-five years, including an iron truss system over the main banking area. Designed in the Italianate style, the most visually striking aspect of the building is its white marble façade.
After merging with the Philadelphia National Bank in 1918, the Farmers' and Mechanics' building retained some banking function until 1976. Hearkening back to an earlier time when retail tenants occupied ground floor shop fronts, in 1965 the building let out space to the Philadelphia Maritime Museum (today known as Independence Seaport Museum). The Museum moved into larger quarters one block east on Chestnut Street in 1974.
At about the same time, the APS began to look for a nearby building that could provide additional room for future Library expansion. The opportunity to purchase the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank building came up in 1981, and the Society eagerly agreed. Renamed Benjamin Franklin Hall, the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank building was renovated over the next decade to provide secure, climate controlled space for Library collections, as well as an auditorium for its meetings.