Federal Hall – Tourist Attractions in New York City
Federal Hall in NYC, New York, USA
Federal Hall, once located at 26 Wall Street in New York City, was the first capitol of the United States. The building was demolished in the 19th century and replaced by the current structure, the first United States Customs House. The building is now operated by the National Park Service as the Federal Hall National Memorial, a museum that commemorates the earlier structure.
The original structure on the site was built as New York’s City Hall in 1700. 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 the freedom of the press as it was later defined in the Bill of Rights.
In October 1765, delegates from nine of the 13 colonies met 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, claiming entitlement to the same rights as the residents of Britain and protesting the colonies’ “taxation without representation.”
The building was remodeled and enlarged following the American Revolution under the direction of Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who was later selected by President Washington to design the capital city on the Potomac. This was the first example of Federal Style architecture in the United States. It was renamed Federal Hall when it became the first Capitol of the United States under the Constitution in 1789, and was the second Capitol of the United States (after the Maryland State House) since independence and union under the Articles of Confederation. The first United States Congress met there on March 4, 1789, to establish the new federal government, and the first thing they did was count the votes that elected George Washington as the first President of the United States. He was inaugurated in front of the building on April 30, 1789.
Many of the most important legislative actions in the United States occurred with the 1st Congress at Federal Hall. First among these were adoption of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution; not long after the new federal Constitution was ratified, many Americans began to express their concern for its limited protection of individual liberties. Twelve amendments to the Constitution were initially drafted, ten were agreed upon, and on September 25, 1789, the Bill of Rights was adopted 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 Court System, which is still in use today. In addition, The Northwest Ordinance was adopted at Federal Hall which set up what would later become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, but more fundamentally it prohibited slavery in these future states.
In 1809, several city notables, including Clement Clarke Moore, were convened there by the New-York Historical Society to declare Sancte Claus the Patron Saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, New York City’s previous name under Dutch rule. Sancte Claus, today’s Santa Claus, is the English version of the Dutch Christmas hero Sinter Claus or Saint Nicholas who helped young people in Asia Minor. These notables, including the poet of the famous early Christmas poem, ‘A Visit From St. Nicholas,’ assembled to create a more unified and peaceful way to celebrate Christmas in a rapidly growing and diverse town.
In 1812 the old New York City Hall, known as Federal Hall, was torn down for $400 worth of scrap. Part of the original railing and balcony floor where Washington was inaugurated are on display in the monument.
Federal Hall National Memorial
New York, New York, USA