New York City Guide

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Federal Hall

The Federal Hall National Memorial is located on Wall Street close to the New York Stock Exchange. The building we see today, which was completed in 1842, is one of the finest examples of classical architecture in New York with Doric columns that are reminiscent of the Parthenon in Athens, but it is not the building that is most important here but the site itself, for it was here where the first United States Congress met, and where in 1789 George Washington was inaugurated as President.

The original building on the site was built in 1700 as New York’s City Hall. It was home to the first and second congress in 1789 and 1790 after which the federal government moved to Philadelphia, where it remained until the move to Washington in 1800. The City Hall building was demolished in 1812, and in 1834 building started on the present structure, which when completed acted as the US Customs House until 1862.

On the steps that lead up to Federal Hall is a plinth on which stands a bronze statue of George Washington by the American sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward. Placed here to commemorate Washington’s inauguration it is believed to be on or very close to the actual position of Washington during the ceremony. George Washington was the commander of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence, the first President of the United States, and one of its Founding Fathers.

Today the Federal Hall is a museum housing exhibitions relating to post-colonial New York including as you would expect information on Washington’s inauguration, and the freedom of the press case involving John Peter Zenger who was finally acquitted after being imprisoned when he exposed government corruption in his newspaper. Also located here is a visitor information centre, and there are often temporary exhibitions held here, plus on weekdays there are free guided tours of the building available.