Independence Hall can rightly be called the birthplace of the United States. Within the building, then called the Pennsylvania State House, the Second Continental Congress convened and commissioned George Washington to command the Continental Army. Independence of the thirteen colonies was proposed, debated, and enacted within the building, its windows closed despite the stifling June heat, to keep its discussions private. The Continental Congress used the building for its sessions throughout the Revolutionary War, except when forced to flee the city of Philadelphia before the British occupation.
When the Articles of Confederation, debated within the building but passed elsewhere, proved inadequate to the task of creating a national government it was to Independence Hall where the founders repaired to create the Constitution of the United States. What eventually became the United States Department of the Post Office was created there, its first Postmaster General the Philadelphia native Benjamin Franklin. The Liberty Bell was originally hung in its lower steeple, and then in a new upper steeple. It is now displayed across Independence Square.
Independence Hall was the home of the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly from 1732. The Governor’s council also occupied the building, which is built of red brick and which was expanded with the addition of wings until it reached the configuration it retains today. The scenes which unfolded within the building during the Revolutionary era alone would be enough to give the building its status as an American Landmark, but there are other, lesser known events in its past which contribute to its status in American history.
Abraham Lincoln’s body was brought to Independence Hall to be held in state in April of 1865. Over 300,000 people waited in lines for hours to pass by the bier and pay their respects. The coffin was open. The following morning Lincoln’s coffin was carried by a hearse through the Philadelphia streets to the train station and the next stop of his funeral train in New York City. Since the Civil War era Independence Hall has been the site of protests, rallies, Presidential addresses, local political speeches, and numerous documentaries and films. It is one of the leading tourist attractions in Philadelphia.
The back of the one hundred dollar bill features a depiction of Independence Hall, and its interior is featured in dozens of paintings of the Founders as they went about their work. Independence Hall is part of the Independence National Historical Park and is administered by the National Park Service. It has been painstakingly restored to its appearance during the Revolutionary War era, both interior and exterior. It is a World Heritage Site as listed by Unesco, and besides being the site where the United States announced its independence, it was the site where an independent Czechoslovakia was announced in 1918.
Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:
“In Search of Liberty: The Story of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island”, by James B. Bell and Richard L. Abrams, 1984
“A Monumental Achievement”, by Judith Dobrzynski, The Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2006
“Chicago In and Around the Loop”, by Gerald Wolfe, 1996
“Hoover’s Promise: The Dam That Remade The American West Celebrates Its 75th Anniversary”, by Sally Denton, American Heritage’s Invention & Technology, Summer, 2010
“The Nine Capitals of the United States”, by the United States Senate Historical Office, based on the book of the same name by Robert Fortenbaugh, 1948 (out of print)