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Find out more about the Federal Hall

Federal Hall National Memorial
Federal Hall front.jpg
Federal Hall in 2006 (former U.S Custom House and Sub-Treasury (1842)
Federal Hall is located in Lower Manhattan
Federal Hall
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Federal Hall is located in New York
Federal Hall
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Federal Hall is located in the US
Federal Hall
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Location of Federal Hall in New York City
Location26 Wall Street, Financial District, Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates40°42′26″N 74°0′37″W / 40.70722°N 74.01028°W / 40.70722; -74.01028Coordinates: 40°42′26″N 74°0′37″W / 40.70722°N 74.01028°W / 40.70722; -74.01028
Area0.45 acres (1,800 m2)
BuiltMay 26, 1842
ArchitectJohn Frazee
Architectural styleGreek Revival style
Visitation156,707 (2004)
WebsiteFederal Hall National Memorial
NRHP reference #66000095[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966[3]
Designated NMEMAugust 11, 1955
Designated NYCLDecember 21, 1965[2]

Federal Hall, originally built in 1699-1703 facing south towards Wall Street as New York's second City Hall, later served as the first capitol building of the United States of America under the recently ratified federal Constitution of 1787, as well as the site on its balcony of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States under the Constitution in April 1789. It was also where the United States Bill of Rights was introduced in the First Congress of the United States. The building of red brick Georgian style architecture was unfortunately demolished in 1812.

Federal Hall National Memorial of marble Greek Revival style architecture with a massive front portico supported by columns was built on the site in 1842 to serve as the United States Custom House, where the former New York City Hall and old Federal Hall stood on Wall Street, and later served as a sub-Treasury building. It is now operated by the National Park Service as a national memorial commemorating the historic events that occurred there both in its previous and current buildings.


Federal Hall, Seat of Congress, 1790 hand-colored engraving by Amos Doolittle, depicting Washington's April 30, 1789 inauguration

Historic building

The original structure on the site was built as New York's second City Hall in 1699–1703, on Wall Street, in what is today the Financial District of Lower Manhattan. In 1735, John Peter Zenger, an American newspaper publisher, was arrested for committing libel against the British royal governor and was imprisoned and tried there. His acquittal on the grounds that the material he had printed was true established freedom of the press, as it was later defined in the Bill of Rights of 1791.[4]

Archibald Robertson’s "View up Wall Street" looking west with the old second City Hall (Federal Hall) on the right and Trinity Church (Episcopal) in the distance, New York City, from around 1798

In October 1765, delegates from nine of the 13 colonies met as the Stamp Act Congress in response to the levying of the Stamp Act by the Parliament of Great Britain. Drawn together for the first time in organized opposition to British policy, the attendees drafted a message to King George III, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, the two chambers of the Parliament, claiming entitlement to the same rights as the King's subjects and residents of Great Britain itself and protesting the colonies' "taxation without representation".

After the American Revolution (1775-1783), the City Hall served as the meeting place for the Congress of the Confederation of the United States under the earlier Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, from 1785 until 1789. Congressional Acts adopted here included the Northwest Ordinance, which set up the old Northwest Territory north of the Ohio River and around the Great Lakes, what would later become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but more fundamentally prohibited slavery in these future territories and states.

In 1788, the building was remodeled and enlarged under the direction of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the French emigre and future architect of the city plans for a new federal capital on the north banks of the Potomac River on land ceded by Maryland and Virginia in 1791 to become the future Washington, D.C.[5] and who was later selected by President George Washington to design the compromise capital city on the Potomac. The old second New York City Hall of 1699-1703 was the first example of Georgian style architecture, which later developed into a Federal style architecture by the late 18th century in the United States. It was renamed Federal Hall when it became the first Capitol of the United States under the Constitution in 1789. The First United States Congress met there on March 4, 1789, to establish the new federal government, and the first thing it did was to count the electoral college votes cast a few months earlier in the states under the new Constitution that elected George Washington as the first President of the United States. He was inaugurated taking the oath of office on the balcony of the building facing huge crowds on Wall Street and delivering the first inaugural address inside the chambers to the Congress on April 30, 1789.

Many of the most important legislative actions in the United States occurred with this precedent-setting First Congress at Federal Hall. Foremost was the proposal and initial ratification in 1791 of the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution; twelve amendments to the Constitution were initially drafted and proposed (of which ten were later adopted and an eleventh two centuries later), and on September 25, 1789, the United States Bill of Rights was proposed in Federal Hall, establishing the freedoms claimed by the Stamp Act Congress on the same site 24 years earlier. Also, the Judiciary Act of 1789 was enacted in the building, which set up the United States federal court system of district and circuit courts along with the number of justices (judges) for the Supreme Court of the United States that is still in use today.

George Washington - 1883 statue by John Quincy Adams Ward on pedestal on the steps in front of Federal Hall National Memorial (old U.S. Custom House and Sub-Treasury of 1842) facing Wall Street at the approximate height of the previous original Federal Hall balcony where he was inaugurated first President in 1789

Customs House and Treasury building

In 1790, the United States capital was moved to Philadelphia, and what had been Federal Hall once again housed the government of New York City until 1812, when the building was razed with the opening of the current New York City Hall.[6] Part of the original railing and balcony floor where Washington was inaugurated are on display in the memorial.[7] The current structure, one of the best surviving examples of classical architecture in New York, was built as the first purpose-built US Custom House for the Port of New York.[8] Designed by John Frazee, it was constructed of Tuckahoe marble and took more than a decade to complete. It opened in 1842.

In 1862, Customs moved to 55 Wall Street and the building served as one of six United States Sub-Treasury locations. Millions of dollars of gold and silver were kept in the basement vaults until the Federal Reserve Bank replaced the Sub-Treasury system in 1920.

In 1882, John Quincy Adams Ward's bronze George Washington statue was erected on its front steps, marking the approximate site where he was inaugurated as President in the former structure.

In 1920, a bomb was detonated across the street from Federal Hall at 23 Wall Street, in what became known as the Wall Street bombing. Thirty-eight people were killed and 400 injured, and 23 Wall Street was visibly damaged, but Federal Hall received no damage. A famous photograph of the event shows the destruction and effects of the bombing, but also shows the statue of Washington standing stoically in the face of chaos (see below).

Main hall of the memorial

Federal Hall National Memorial

The building was designated as Federal Hall Memorial National Historic Site on May 26, 1939, and redesignated a national memorial on August 11, 1955. As with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, the memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. Federal Hall was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on 000000001965-12-21-0000December 21, 1965.[9]

Congress convenes for a special session at Federal Hall National Memorial on September 6, 2002

On September 6, 2002, approximately 300 members of the United States Congress traveled from Washington, D.C. to New York to convene in Federal Hall National Memorial as a symbolic show of support for the city, still recovering from the September 11, 2001 attacks. Held just four blocks from the World Trade Center site, the meeting was the first by Congress in New York since 1790.[6]

The site closed on December 3, 2004 for extensive renovations. In 2006, Federal Hall National Memorial reopened after a $16 million renovation, mostly to its foundation, after cracks threatening the structure were greatly aggravated by the collapse of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.

It was reported on June 8, 2008, that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ABC News invited 2008 United States presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to a town hall forum at Federal Hall.[10] Both candidates declined the offer "because they do not want it limited to one television network."[11]

The National Park Service operates Federal Hall as a national memorial. As a national memorial, the site is open free to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. It has tourist information about the New York Harbor area's federal monuments and parks, and a New York City tourism information center. The gift shop has colonial and early American items for sale. Normally its exhibit galleries are open free to the public daily, except national holidays, and guided tours of the site are offered throughout the day. Exhibits include George Washington’s Inauguration Gallery, including the Bible used to swear his oath of office; Freedom of the Press, the imprisonment and trial of John Peter Zenger; and New York: An American Capital, preview exhibit created by the National Archives and Records Administration.


Two prominent American ideals are reflected in the current building's Greek Revival architecture: The Doric columns of the facade, designed by Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis, resemble those of the Parthenon and serve as a tribute to the democracy of the Greeks; the domed ceiling inside, designed by John Frazee, echoes the Pantheon and is evocative of the republican ideals of the ancient Romans.[3]

The current structure is often overshadowed among downtown landmarks by the New York Stock Exchange, which is located diagonally across Wall and Broad Streets, but the site is one of the most important in the history of the United States and, particularly, the foundation of the United States government and its democratic institutions.

On U.S. postage

Issue of 1957

Engraved renditions of Federal Hall appear twice on U.S. postage stamps. The first stamp showing Federal Hall was issued on April 30, 1939, the 150th anniversary of President Washington's inauguration, where he is depicted on the balcony of Federal Hall taking the oath of office.

The second issue was released in 1957, the 200th anniversary of Alexander Hamilton's birth. This issue depicts Alexander Hamilton and a full view of Federal Hall.[12][13]




  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "Federal Hall National Memorial" (PDF). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. December 21, 1965. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Federal Hall National Memorial". National Park Service. Retrieved 25 June 2016. 
  4. ^ "The Trial of John Peter Zenger". 
  6. ^ a b " - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News". Archived from the original on 2012-09-27. 
  7. ^ "Inaugural Balcony". 
  8. ^ "Federal Hall -- U.S. Custom House". FEDERAL HALL. Retrieved 2016-10-25. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ ABC News. "New York Mayor, ABC News Invite Obama, McCain to Historic Town Hall". ABC News. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "The Presidents". The White House. 
  13. ^ Scott's US Stamp Catalogue


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