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Federal Hall National Memorial

Federal Hall National Memorial (17)

Here, at 26 Wall Street, in the heart of the financial centre, there is a building that looks like something of another era and is keeping key moments in the history of New York and the United States. It is the Federal Hall.

As you can see, the current structure shows a Greek revival, or Neogreek, style, inspired by Greek architecture, which was typical after the European neoclassicism of the second half of the 18th century. In fact, the Federal Hall reminds us of the Parthenon in Athens, with its wide marble staircase, sober façade and Doric columns designed by Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis, and with a rich and highly detailed interior with a beautiful dome, designed by John Frazee.

The original building, which was built here in 1700, was the second City Hall of New York. The first was built in 1641 by the Dutch at 73 Pearl Street, about 5 minutes south from here. As early as 1788, it was remodelled and expanded by Pierre Charles L'Enfant, American architect of French origin, who then, when being elected by the president himself, ended up designing the current city of Washington. Later on, in 1842, it was completely renovated and renamed Federal Hall National Memorial.

As a first significant fact about this building, you should know that, in 1735, John Peter Zenger, the famous journalist who complained about governmental corruption in his newspaper, was imprisoned and prosecuted here. His acquittal was considered one of the first victories of press freedom in the world.

Later, in 1765, 9 delegates from the 13 colonies met in the Stamp Act Congress against British policy. The participants sent a clear message to King George III and the other power institutions, asking the same rights as those residents in the motherland enjoyed. This was the germ of independence. War would begin just 10 years later.

But, undoubtedly, the most important event that happened here is the one we are reminded of by the bronze statue you can admire outside the building. It is George Washington, the first President of the United States, who was sworn in here on 30 April 1789. In fact, within the Federal Hall you can find the Bible on which he swore. 

Later, the building was used as customs office or even as a bank and, from 1939 on, it became a historic landmark and a national memorial since 1955.

Since 2006, remodelled again, it has reopened as a museum commemorating the events that took place here. If you are interested in American history, you cannot miss it.

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