Congress Hall, located in
Philadelphia at the intersection of Chestnut
and 6th Streets, served as the seat of the
United States Congress
United States Congress from
December 6, 1790 to May 14, 1800. During Congress Hall's
duration as the capitol of the United States, the country admitted
three new states, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee; ratified the Bill
of Rights of the United States Constitution; and oversaw the
Presidential inaugurations of both
George Washington (his second) and
Congress Hall was restored in the 20th century to its original
appearance in 1796. The building is now managed by the National Park
Service within the
Independence National Historical Park
Independence National Historical Park and is open
for public tours.
Congress Hall is conjoined with Independence Hall,
which is adjacent to the east.
2 Temporary capitol
5 Restoration and present status
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Philadelphia served as the capital of the United States both during
and immediately after the American Revolutionary War. Independence
Hall, located next door, served as the meeting place of the
Continental Congress until the Pennsylvania Mutiny in June 1783. The
failure of the Pennsylvania government to protect Congress from a mob
of angry mutineers caused the representatives to withdraw to
Princeton, New Jersey. The national capital then moved to Annapolis,
Maryland in November 1783, then to
Trenton, New Jersey
Trenton, New Jersey in November
1784 before finally moving to
New York City
New York City in January 1785. State
delegates did not return to
Independence Hall in
the United States Constitutional Convention in 1787; however, New York
City remained the official capital even during the convention.
Designed by architect Samuel Lewis,
Congress Hall was originally built
to serve as the
Philadelphia County Courthouse; construction began in
1787 and was completed two years later.
Article One, Section Eight, of the
United States Constitution
United States Constitution granted
Congress the authority to create a federal district to serve as the
national capital. Following the ratification of the Constitution, the
Congress, while meeting in New York, passed the
Residence Act on July
9, 1790. The Act established the District of Columbia on the banks of
Potomac River between the states of
Virginia to serve
as the new federal capital. However, Robert Morris, a Senator from
Pennsylvania, convinced Congress to return to
Philadelphia while the
new permanent capital was being built. As a result, the Residence Act
Philadelphia to be the temporary capital for a period of
In an attempt to convince Congress to keep the capital in
Philadelphia, the city began construction on a massive new
Presidential palace on 9th Street as well as an expansion to the
County Courthouse into what would become Congress Hall. Upon the
return of Congress to
Philadelphia on December 6, 1790, the first
Congress Hall had been transformed into the chamber for the
House of Representatives and the second floor had been converted into
a chamber for the United States Senate. Despite their efforts to
construct new buildings for use by the federal government, the city's
residents failed to convince Congress to modify the
Residence Act and
Philadelphia the permanent capital.
Congress Hall served as the
capitol building until May 14, 1800, when the offices of the national
government moved to Washington, D.C.
House chamber on the first floor of Congress Hall
Senate chamber on the second floor of Congress Hall
The House chamber on the first floor is rather simple and featured
mahogany desks and leather chairs. The room eventually accommodated
106 representatives from 16 states: the 13 original states as well as
the representatives from the new states of
Vermont in 1791, Kentucky
in 1792, and
Tennessee in 1796. The room has been restored to its
original appearance in 1796.
The second floor, reserved as the chamber for the Senate, was more
ornate and adorned with heavy red drapes. By 1796, the room featured
32 secretary desks very similar to the desks that are still used in
the current Senate chamber in the United States Capitol; 28 of the
Congress Hall are original. Portraits of Louis XVI and Marie
Antoinette, presented as gifts from the French monarch following the
American Revolution, hang in adjoining committee rooms. A fresco of an
American bald eagle
American bald eagle is painted on the ceiling, holding the traditional
olive branch to symbolize peace. Also on the ceiling, a plaster
medallion in the form of a sunburst features 13 stars to represent the
original colonies. The design mirrors a similar pattern on the floor,
where a carpet made by William Sprague, a local weaver, features the
shields of each of the 13 original states. The carpet seen today is a
reproduction of the original.
During the almost ten years it served as the capitol, Congress Hall
witnessed many historic events including the admittance of three new
United States Bill of Rights
United States Bill of Rights was ratified at Congress Hall
in 1791. The second Presidential inauguration of George Washington
took place in the House chamber in 1793, as did inauguration of John
Adams in 1797. Congress also used the time to establish the First Bank
of the United States, the Federal Mint, and the United States
Department of the Navy. The Jay Treaty, which secured a temporary
peace with Great Britain, was also ratified at
Congress Hall in
1796. After the capital moved to Washington,
Congress Hall returned
to its original function as the
Philadelphia County Courthouse and
served as the location of both state and federal courts during the
early 19th century. Also designed by Samuel Lewis, the Burlington
County Courthouse in
Mount Holly Township, New Jersey
Mount Holly Township, New Jersey was built in
1796 and modeled after Congress Hall.
Restoration and present status
After its use as a courthouse in the early 19th century, Congress
Hall, like other buildings in the area, had fallen into disrepair. In
Pennsylvania General Assembly
Pennsylvania General Assembly ordered the demolition of all
the buildings surrounding Independence Hall. However, the law was
never enforced and was officially repealed in 1895. Under the
leadership of a civic organization known as The Colonial Dames of
America, the architect
George Champlin Mason, Jr.
George Champlin Mason, Jr. began restoring
Congress Hall in 1895-96, though this work was mostly limited to the
Senate chamber. In 1900, the
Philadelphia chapter of the American
Institute of Architects (AIA) began a study of
Congress Hall and
initiated a funding drive for the building's complete restoration.
After funds were secured, the
City of Philadelphia
City of Philadelphia approved the
restoration project in 1912 under the supervision of the AIA. Work on
Congress Hall was completed the following year when President Woodrow
Wilson rededicated the building. Additional work to refurbish the
House chamber was completed in 1934. In 1942, over 50 civic and
patriotic groups met at the
American Philosophical Society
American Philosophical Society and joined
to create the
Independence Hall Association. The association lobbied
for the creation of Independence National Historical Park, which was
initially approved by Congress in 1948 and formally established on
July 4, 1956.
Congress Hall is now maintained by the National Park Service, which
operates guided tours of the building throughout the year on a
first-come, first-served basis.
On December 2, 2008, the building hosted President-elect Barack
Obama's meeting with the
National Governors Association
National Governors Association where they
discussed the economic crisis then facing the country.
Burlington County Courthouse (New Jersey), also by Samuel Lewis as
described as "twin" building
Independence Hall (at "Independence Hall's History"). World Heritage
Sites official webpage. World Heritage Committee. Retrieved March 16,
^ a b c d e f "Congress Hall".
Independence Hall Association.
Retrieved September 7, 2008.
^ a b "The Nine Capitals of the United States". United States Senate.
Retrieved September 7, 2008.
^ a b c "The President's House in Philadelphia". Independence Hall
Association. July 4, 1995. Archived from the original on July 15,
2007. Retrieved August 27, 2008.
^ a b "Main Street Mount Holly". Mount Holly Main Street Association.
Archived from the original on March 7, 2008. Retrieved October 7,
^ "Residence Act: Primary Documents in American History". Library of
Congress. September 21, 2007. Retrieved September 23, 2008.
^ a b "Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Old City Hall". Independence
Hall Association. Retrieved September 7, 2008.
^ a b "Congress Hall". National Park Service. January 20, 2008.
Retrieved September 7, 2008.
^ "Mount Holly Township Historic Information". Burlington County
Government. Archived from the original on June 24, 2006.
^ a b c "Independence National Historical Park". National Park
Service. December 2, 2002. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
^ Fitzgerald, Thomas (December 2, 2008). "Obama says he'll give govs
role in bailout".
Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on
December 5, 2008. Retrieved December 2, 2008.
Weigley, Russell Frank; Nicholas B. Wainwright; Edwin Wolf (1982).
Philadelphia: A 300 Year History. New York: W. W. Norton &
Company. ISBN 978-0-393-01610-9.
Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. PA-1431, "Congress
Hall", 24 photos, 9 color transparencies, 35 measured
drawings, 7 data pages, 4 photo caption pages
Media related to
Congress Hall at Wikimedia Commons
Location of the capital of the United States and predecessors
1774 First Continental Congress
1775–81 Second Continental Congress
Philadelphia → Baltimore → Lancaster →
York → Philadelphia
1781–89 Congress of the Confederation
Philadelphia → Princeton → Annapolis →
Trenton → New York City
1789–present Federal government of the United
New York City → Philadelphia → Washington, D.C.
History of the United States
Technological and industrial
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