Many visitors to New York City do not know that the city was the first capitol of the United States. New York City’s City Hall was located at 26 Wall Street in the 1700s, and the building served as the host for a number of important events during and after the American Revolution, including the Stamp Act Congress, the passage of the Northwest Ordinance, the drafting of the Bill of Rights for the U.S. Constitution, and George Washington’s inauguration as the first president of the United States. The city hall operated as the seat of the federal government until the capitol was briefly moved to Philadelphia in 1790, and then city offices moved back into the building.
That building no longer exists, but visitors can now tour Federal Hall National Memorial, which is located on the same site. The current building was built in 1842 and operated as a customs house for a number of years before becoming a depository for the U.S. Sub-Treasury (the Sub-Treasury system was replaced by the Federal Reserve System in 1920). Today, Federal Hall is a museum, free to visitors.
Federal hall has beautiful architectural details inside and out. Here are a couple of perspectives of the main hall, with its imposing columns and domed ceiling.
Although the original building is gone, you can still view the stone that George Washington was standing on when he took the oath of office as president for the first time.
There is also this replica of the desk that George Washington used as president when the national capitol was located on the site. I learned that the original desk is now located at the current City Hall building, in the Governor’s Room.
Federal Hall contains multiple permanent exhibits that address the city and nation’s early history and the history of the current building. There is also a temporary exhibit that starts in the main hall and continues to the basement level. The current temporary exhibit celebrates the diverse cultural, social, and political history of New York City’s neighborhood of Harlem. If you wish to see this excellent exhibit, you should visit Federal Hall before the exhibit closes on April 15, 2016.
Federal Hall’s location means that visitors can also see the New York Stock Exchange building. Members of the general public cannot tour the inside of the Stock Exchange, but you can still get a great picture of the outside of the building.
How can you get to Federal Hall National Memorial? The museum is located in lower Manhattan near numerous other tourist attractions. There are many subway stations within walking distance, but here are the closest ones. You can take the 2, 3, 4, or 5 trains to Wall Street, the J or Z trains to the Broad Street station, the 1 or R trains to Rector Street, or the A or C trains to Fulton Street.