Federal Hall, built in 1700 as New York's City Hall, later served as the first capitol building of the United States of America under the Constitution, and was the site of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States. It was also where the United States Bill of Rights was introduced in the First Congress. The building was demolished in 1812.
Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street was built in 1842 as the United States Custom House, on the site of the old Federal Hall, and later served as a sub-Treasury building. It is now operated by the National Park Service as a museum commemorating the historic events that occurred there.
As a national memorial, the site is open free to the public from 9-5 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.
- Journey to Federal Hall - An 8-minute video about the history of Federal Hall.
- New York: An American Capital - Preview exhibit created by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Two prominent American ideals are reflected in the building's 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 Greek democracy; the domed ceiling inside, designed by John Frazee, echoes the Pantheon and the economic might of the Romans.
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.