Independence Hall is the centerpiece of Independence National Historical Park. This is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated, drafted, and signed. This is where the United States’ independence from England became official and a new government was formed.
Location: Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Sts., 877/444-6777, www.nps.gov/inde
Hours: Daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m., tours every 15-30 minutes, last tour at 4:30 p.m.
A free timed-ticket is required March through December. You can reserve at Independence Visitor Center on the day of visit or in advance online or by phone. Tickets go fast in summer months so come as early in the day as possible or reserve in advance.
Major Events That Took Place Here
Originally called the State House, Independence Hall was the meeting place for the Second Continental Congress from 1775-1783. The most important decisions were made in the first-floor Assembly Room, which is home to George Washington’s famous “Rising Sun” chair. This is where Washington was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army (1775), the Declaration of Independence was adopted (July 4, 1776), the design of the American flag was agreed upon (1777), the Articles of Confederation were adopted (1781), and the U.S. Constitution was drafted (1787). Original copies of the Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution are on display in the Great Essentials Exhibit in the West Wing. You can also see the Syng silver inkstand that the founding fathers dipped their ink into to sign the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
The classic Georgian structure was designed by Andrew Hamilton and Edmund Wooley. It was built between 1732-1756. Of the many restorations it has undergone, the most notable were those by Greek revival architect John Havilland in 1830 and later by the National Park Service in 1950. The latter greatly restored the building to its late 18th-century appearance. The furniture is largely reproduction pieces because most of the original furniture was burnt during the winter of 1777-1778 when Philadelphia was briefly occupied by the British Army.
Old City Hall and Congress Hall
Independence Hall is actually the center of a trio of matching Georgian buildings that housed the three branches of early government, and most people visit all of them together. On the corner of Chestnut and 5th Streets sits Old City Hall. Built in 1790 by master carpenter David Evans, it was home to the United States Supreme Court from 1791-1800. Philadelphia was the nation’s capital until it moved to D.C. and this building served as Philadelphia’s City Hall during that time.
On the corner of Chestnut and 6th Streets is Congress Hall, where the two branches of Congress met (1790-1800). The House of Representatives was on the first floor and the Senate on the second floor. Built in 1787, Congress Hall was the site of the inaugurations of Adams and Washington’s second term. This is where the Bill of Rights was ratified. On the second floor of Congress Hall, there are many symbolic designs, including a 19th-century fresco of an eagle holding an olive branch signifying peace and a plaster medallion on the ceiling with an oval sunburst with 13 stars to honor the 13 original states. The carpet features 13 state shields and cornucopias wishing for abundance in the new land, and is a reproduction of the original made in the 1790s by William Sprague, founder of the first woven carpet mill in Philadelphia, credited with bringing the carpet industry to the United States.