Independence Hall is the centerpiece of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, on Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets. It is known primarily as the location where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and adopted. The building was completed in 1753 as the colonial legislature (later Pennsylvania State House) for the Province of Pennsylvania. It became the principal meeting place of the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1783 and was the site of the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787. The building is part of Independence National Historical Park and is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Preparation for construction
By the spring of 1729 the citizens of Philadelphia were petitioning to be allowed to build a state house. Two thousand pounds were set aside for the endeavor. A committee was formed composed of Thomas Lawrence, Dr. John Kearsley, and Andrew Hamilton with the responsibility of selecting a site for construction, acquiring plans for the building, and contracting a company for the purpose of construction. Hamilton was, along with William Allen, named a trustee of the purchasing and building fund and authorized to buy the land that would be the site of the state house. By October 1730 they had begun purchasing lots on Chestnut Street.
Independence Hall was built between 1732 and 1753, designed by Edmund Woolley and Andrew Hamilton, and built by Woolley. Its construction was commissioned by the Pennsylvania colonial legislature which paid for construction as funds were available, so it was finished piecemeal. It was initially inhabited by the colonial government of Pennsylvania as its State House, from 1732 to 1799. The hall is a red brick building designed in the Georgian style. It consists of a central building with belltower and steeple, attached to two smaller wings via arcaded hyphens.
The bell tower steeple of Independence Hall was the original home of the Liberty Bell and today it holds a Centennial Bell that was created for the United States Centennial Exposition in 1876. The original Liberty Bell, with its distinctive crack, is now on display across the street in the Liberty Bell Center. In 1976 Queen Elizabeth II visited Philadelphia and presented a gift to the American people of a replica Bicentennial Bell, which was cast in the same British foundry as the original. This 1976 bell hangs in the modern bell tower on 3rd Street near Independence Hall.
From 1802 to 1826-27, artist Charles Willson Peale housed his museum of natural history specimens (including the skeleton of a mastodon) and portraits of famous Americans, on the second floor of the Old State House and in the Assembly Room. In early 1816, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania sold the State House to the City of Philadelphia, with a contract signed by the governor. The deed, however, was not transferred until more than two years later. Philadelphia has owned the State House and its associated buildings and grounds since that time.
Independence National Historical Park was established by the 80th U.S. Congress later that year to preserve historical sites associated with the American Revolution. Independence National Historical Park comprises a landscaped area of four city blocks, as well as outlying sites that include: Independence Square, Carpenters' Hall (meeting place of the First Continental Congress), the site of Benjamin Franklin's home, the reconstructed Graff House (where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence), City Tavern (center of Revolutionary War activities), restored period residences, and several early banks.
The park also holds the Liberty Bell, Franklin's desk, a portrait gallery, gardens, and libraries. A product of extensive documentary research and archaeology by the federal government, the restoration of Independence Hall and other buildings in the park set standards for other historic preservation and stimulated rejuvenation of old Philadelphia. The site, administered by the National Park Service, is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (joining only three other U.S. man-made monuments still in use, the others being the Statue of Liberty, Pueblo de Taos, and the combined site of the University of Virginia and Monticello).
Independence Hall has been used in more recent times as the staging ground for protests because of its symbolic history in support of democratic and civil rights movements. On October 26, 1918, Tomáš Masaryk proclaimed the independence of Czechoslovakia on the steps of Independence Hall. On Independence Day, July 4, 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave an address there. Independence Hall is pictured on the back of the U.S. $100 bill, as well as the bicentennial Kennedy half dollar.