Few places have played a more important role in American history than Federal Hall. After construction in 1700, it served as the seat of New York’s colonial government; the Stamp Act Congress protesting "taxation without representation" was held here; the First Continental Congress and the infant US Congress met here; and George Washington was sworn in here as the first President of the United States in 1789. Sadly, however, the current building is not the original, which was torn down in 1812.
After Philadelphia became the capital of the United States, the building reverted to its original use as New York’s City Hall. There is a fine statue of George Washington on the steps, and the building is one of New York’s most impressive Greek revival buildings.
The site’s modest museum gives a feel for New York’s colonial history. Both the guided tour and a short video explain Federal Hall’s unique place in American history.
Many tourists enjoy having their photographs taken on the steps in front of the statue of George Washington and then combine their visit here with the nearby Stock Exchange. Also worthwhile is a visit to see the exterior of the nearby Federal Reserve Bank. You might also combine your visit here with nearby Fraunces Tavern, the original tavern where George Washington bid farewell to his troops, or St. Paul’s Chapel, where Washington worshipped (his original pew is intact). Note that the Wall Street area is particularly tranquil on Sunday mornings and perhaps the best time of week for a walking tour, although obviously places such as the Stock Exchange are closed.
Federal Hall is located in the Financial District neighborhood of Manhattan. The financial hub of the United States, the seat of New York City government, and home to some of New York's oldest buildings, the Financial District has an illustrious history. 17th century settlers began building here, and given the many seafarers of the time, boats could be conveniently docked at one of the slips right near the settlements of wooden homes. Right nearby, in the heart of the district is Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States in 1789, also the meeting site for the First Congress. New York City was both the capital of the United States and New York State at the time. The street names reflect the district's fascinating history: Fulton Street, named after Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat; Maiden Lane, originally called Magde Platje in Dutch; Beaver Street, recalling the once-significant beaver pelt trade, etc. The area today houses some great economic powerhouses, including the headquarters of major banks, the New York Stock Exchange, in addition to the World Financial Center. Contrasts are extraordinary, from old two- and three-story old brick buildings near South Street Seaport to the nearby modern mega-skyscrapers. Some of the numerous other attractions include Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington bid farewell to his troops (also, they have a museum!); the newly-landscaped City Hall Park; the Museum of the American Indian and the US Custom House at Bowling Green; Trinity Church, the first parish church in New York City and the resting place of Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton, among others; War Of 1812 strong hold Castle Clinton; the Staten Island-bound South Ferry; Battery Park; and the Federal Reserve Bank. Sadly, the biggest attraction since 9/11 has been the former World Trade Center site, although, thankfully, construction has finally filled the long-standing gouge in Lower Manhattan's face, and the stunning 9/11 Memorial and its attendant museum are welcome signs of a healing city. And, of course, soaring a symbolic 1,776 feet over the memorial is the new 1 World Trade Center!
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