• Congress Voting Independence

    Independence

    National Historical Park Pennsylvania

Second Bank of the United States

The Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank is closed for cleaning and restoration. The building is scheduled to reopen in early May 2015.

 
Color photo showing exterior view of the north facade of the Second Bank featuring eight marble columns topped by a triangular pediment.
This marvel of Greek Revival architecture houses a collection of original portraits of the Founding Fathers.
NPS photo
 
The Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank of the United States, located on Chestnut Street, between 4th and 5th Streets, houses the "People of Independence" exhibit. This exhibit includes a permanent collection of over 150 portraits of 18th and 19th century political leaders, military officers, explorers and scientists, including many by noted artist Charles Willson Peale.

Chartered by Congress in 1816, the Second Bank played a pivotal role in the "bank wars," which pitted President Andrew Jackson against powerful bank president Nicholas Biddle. President Jackson contended that the Second Bank was unconstitutional and dangerous to republican ideals. In 1832, Jackson's political opponents decided to make the Bank an election issue by forcing an early renewal of the Bank's 20 year charter, but the plan backfired when President Jackson vetoed the bill. By 1836, all of the Second Bank's funds had been transferred to state banks.

The building itself is a work of art. Designed by architect William Strickland and built between 1819 and 1824, the Second Bank is a fine example of Greek Revival architecture. Strickland looked to the Parthenon in Greece as his muse, borrowing its blank pediments and Doric columns. After the demise of the Bank in 1836, the building changed hands and function, eventually becoming the Custom House in Philadelphia. Alongside these shifts in use came changes to the interior and some of the exterior of the building. Little remains of the building's original interior design except for the barrel vaulted ceiling, the marble columns in the main banking room, and the side flue fireplaces.
 

 

 
 

Did You Know?