April 29, 2011 •
Highlighted Site of the Week – Federal Hall
On April 30, the 222nd anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington at Federal Hall is remembered. The building was also the where the Bill of Rights was written!
As part if its Weekly Historical Highlights, the website of the U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Clerk remembers the very first presidential inauguration at Federal Hall in New York City. On April 30, 1789, the inauguration ceremony for George Washington was held in Federal Hall, where Federal Congress first met before moving to Philadelphia. The Office of the Clerk site gives an account of the event and says Washington was very humbled by the occasion.
The original building was located on Wall Street. It was built in 1700 and originally served as the New York City Hall. From 1785-1789, it served as the capitol where Congress met. According to the U.S. Senate website: “When Congress convened for the first time on March 4, 1789, the old building had been converted into a splendid capitol, optimistically renamed Federal Hall.”
The National Park Service (NPS.gov) gives us a great picture of the landmark events that Federal Hall has witnessed: “After the American Revolution, the Continental Congress met at City Hall and, in 1787, adopted the Northwest Ordinance, establishing procedures for creating new states.When the Constitution was ratified in 1788, New York remained the national capital. Pierre L’Enfant [who designed the city plan for the District of Columbia] was commissioned to remodel the City Hall for the new federal government. The First Congress met in the now Federal Hall and wrote the Bill of Rights.”
The NPS goes on to say that when the nation’s capital was moved to Philadelphia, the building went back to being New York’s city hall. In 1812 the building was torn down and a new one was opened in 1842, functioning first as the Customs House, then as a Treasury, and finally as a national memorial to Federal Hall.
If you are in New York City, there is tour information for Federal Hall here and here. You might wish to follow the New Amsterdam trail that starts at Castle Clinton and ends with Federal Hall.
Have a great weekend!
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