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Federal Hall National Memorial
New York


Federal Hall
Courtesy, Federal Hall National Memorial

Federal Hall National Memorial is a museum and memorial to the beginnings of the United States of America and to its first president. It stands on the site of the original Federal Hall, the first capitol of the United States, and of George Washington’s inauguration as the first president.  The building no longer standing that served first as New York City’s 18th century City Hall and later as Federal Hall was the scene of important events associated with the founding of the new nation and the American presidency.

In 1735, old City Hall was the place of imprisonment and the trial for libel of newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger. His acquittal for exposing government corruption in his newspaper was a famous precedent in the establishment of freedom of the press.  In October 1765, colonists gathered in City Hall at the Stamp Act Congress to draft a protest against “taxation without representation” in response to passage of the Stamp Act by the Parliament of Great Britain. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the United States under the Articles of Confederation met in this building from 1785 until 1789. Here in 1787, the Congress approved the Northwest Ordinance that set the procedures for establishing new States, and made the decision to hold a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

Washington Inaugural
Historic Images from National Park Service files

After ratification of the Constitution, New York’s City Hall building became the original Federal Hall, the first capitol of the United States under the Constitution. The first Congress of the United States convened here on March 4, 1789, and elected George Washington as president of the new republic, inaugurating him in front of the building on April 30, 1789. The Federal Government took shape here, and President Washington began to define the role of chief executive for the fledging nation. As one of its first actions in 1789, Congress passed the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution that protect individual liberties. The new executive and legislative branches met to enact the laws that created the Departments of State, Treasury, War, and Justice, and the Post Office. They approved the Judiciary Act of 1789 establishing the court system including the Supreme Court and the lower Federal courts.  In 1790, the capital moved to Philadelphia, and the old building served as the State capitol until 1796, and then again became the seat of the New York City government until its demolition in 1812.

War Bonds Rally
Historic Images from National Park Service files

Federal Hall National Memorial is housed in the Greek Revival style U.S. Customs Building that replaced the old building in 1842. With its eight Doric columns and low triangular pediment, it is a fine piece of classical style architecture. Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis designed its exterior to resemble the Parthenon as a tribute to Greek democracy, while John Frazee designed the domed ceiling after the Roman Pantheon.  In 1862, the building became the U.S. sub-Treasury housing millions of dollars of gold and silver in its basement vaults until 1920, when the Federal Reserve Bank replaced the Sub-Treasury. 

The building became Federal Hall Memorial National Historic Site in 1939 and a national memorial in 1955.  The museum features a number of exhibits that explore the link between Federal Hall, New York and America's history. Visitors can also view videos  about Federal Hall’s history and other National Parks of New York Harbor.  The statue of George Washington in front of the building, facing Wall Street, is by John Quincy Adams Ward.  It was dedicated on November 25, 1883, the centennial of the end of the American Revolution and evacuation of New York City by the British.

On September 6, 2002, the United States Congress convened in New York City for the first time since 1790.  Members met in Federal Hall just four blocks from Ground Zero in support of the City and its recovery after the attacks of September 11, 2001.


Plan your visit
Federal Hall National Memorial, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 26 Wall St., in New York City. The best way to reach Federal Hall is by mass transit. Click this Public Transportation link for information. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places registration documentation: text  and photos. Federal Hall National Memorial is currently open free of charge Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm, closed Federal holidays. Ranger-lead building tours are regularly scheduled at 10:00am, 2:00pm and 4:00pm.  Federal Hall also offers a number of self-guided exhibits. For more information, visit the National Park Service Federal Hall National Memorial website. Federal Hall has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.
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