The construction of Town Hall began in 1798. Completed the following year, this was the first structure in Wilmington built for government use. It was designed by a building committee which followed the Borough Council's request that the structure be "built in a plain and handsome manner." The building's style reflects the preference for efficient, unobtrusive government, and the Quaker ideal of unornamented design preferred by the Society of Friends, who had a large presence in the city at that time.
For its first one hundred years, Town Hall served as the center for important governmental proceedings and many community activities. Town meetings, elections, exhibits, the naturalization of new citizens, court activities, and private gatherings all took place here. Numerous groups used Town Hall as their headquarters, including the Philosophical Society, the Freemasons, the Library Company, and two early fire companies. By 1916, city government had outgrown Town Hall, and it was sold to the Historical Society of Delaware.