Federal Hall

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Federal Hall National Memorial, New York City

Federal Hall was the first United States Capitol building . Located at 26 Wall Street in New York City , the building was replaced by the first United States Customs House in the 19th century and has been used by the National Park Service as the Federal Hall National Memorial since May 26, 1939 .

Although it only housed Congress for a year, it hosted major events in American history: George Washington's first oath of office , the passage of the Bill of Rights, and the Northwest Ordinance .

The old building: seat of the First Congress

The old Federal Hall as it was in 1789
Bronze statue of George Washington
Interior view with dome

The building was originally built in 1700 as New York City's City Hall. In 1735 the British authorities arrested the newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger for allegedly defaming the British governor of New York. Zenger was imprisoned in Federal Hall and his trial was taking place there. His acquittal - based on the fact that the accusations against the governor were true - is considered the beginning of freedom of the press in the 13 colonies.

Delegates from the 13 colonies met here in October 1765 to oppose the Stamp Act of George III. to protest. It was the first meeting of a cross-colony opposition to British rule. The delegates wrote a letter to George, the House of Lords and the House of Commons , demanding the same rights as the residents of Great Britain. This is how the slogan “ no taxation without representation ” was born in the Federal Hall .

After the American Revolution, the architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant had the Federal Hall expanded and rebuilt. After the American Constitution came into force in 1789, the Federal Hall was the seat of the US Congress from March 4, 1789 . Congress counted the electoral votes for the election of George Washington , who took his oath of office as the first President of the United States .

Many of the major US laws passed by Congress in its first ten years. This included the adoption of the Bill of Rights on September 25, 1789. The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the federal judiciary that still exists in the United States today. And Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance there , which established the territory of the later states of Ohio , Indiana , Illinois , Michigan and Wisconsin as part of the United States, determined that states could arise there, and prohibited slavery there from the start .

Today's building

In 1790, the US government and Congress moved to Philadelphia , so that Federal Hall once again housed the New York City government. In 1812 she had the house torn down and the first customs house in the USA built in the classical style, which opened in 1842. Later one of the Federal Reserve Bank branch offices was located there .

The new building shows the Americans' relationship to ancient democracies and their ideals. The Doric columns of the facade, designed by Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis , are similar to those of the Parthenon in Athens and show the reference to Greek democracy. The interior dome designed by John Frazee is reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome and the economic power of the Roman Empire .

In the ranking of New York attractions, Federal Hall is mostly behind the New York Stock Exchange , which is diagonally opposite . Most publicly known is a bronze statue of George Washington standing on the site of his inauguration .

Federal Hall National Memorial

Federal Hall was declared a National Historic Site on May 26, 1939 and redesignated a National Memorial on August 11 . The National Park Service added the building to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

The building now houses a museum that is open to the public free of charge, except on public holidays. In 2004 it attracted over 150,000 visitors. The exhibitions in the building are:

  • George Washington's Inauguration Gallery - Including the Bible on which he swore his oath of office.
  • Freedom of the Press - The arrest and trial in the Zenger case
  • Journey to Federal Hall - Eight minute video about the history of the place

On September 6, 2002, 300 congressmen traveled to New York to meet again in Federal Hall, four blocks from Ground Zero . This was meant to show support for the city after the 9/11 attacks , making it the first New York City congressional session since 1790.


Web links

Commons : Federal Hall  - Collection of Images, Videos, and Audio Files

Coordinates: 40 ° 42 ′ 26 ″  N , 74 ° 0 ′ 37 ″  W.