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January 25, 2019

History lesson: Inside Federal Hall

Did you know that Wagner Battery Park is just steps from the birthplace of American Government? That’s some pretty important stuff. Federal Hall, the unassuming Greek Revival limestone building in downtown Manhattan, goes way back to our founding fathers and throughout history it has served as the setting of some pretty historical moments. Let’s go inside!

Federal Hall is the name given to the first of two historic buildings located at 26 Wall Street. The original structure completed in 1703 served as New York’s first City Hall, where the colonial Stamp Act Congress met to draft its message to King George III claiming entitlement to the same rights as the residents of Britain and protesting “taxation without representation”. We all remember that moment from eighth grade history class.

After the American Revolution, Federal Hall came back into prominence by serving as the meeting place for the Congress of the Confederation held under the Articles of Confederation. In 1788, the building was remodeled and enlarged under the direction of Pierre Charles L’Enfant,[4] becoming the first example of Federal Style architecture in the United States. It was renamed Federal Hall when it became the first Capitol of the newly created United States in 1789 and hosted the 1st United States Congress. On its steps George Washington was sworn in as the first President. But this structure would not last long. It was demolished in 1812.

The current building, completed in 1842, is one of the best surviving examples of neoclassical architecture in New York. It was created as the U.S. Custom House for the Port of New York and later it served as a sub-Treasury building. Though never referred to as “Federal Hall”, today it is operated by the National Park Service as a national memorial and designated the Federal Hall National Memorial to commemorate the historic events that occurred there.