Federal Hall National Memorial is a museum and memorial to the beginnings of the United States of America and to its first president. It is a historic building in New York City located at 26 Wall Street in the Financial District of Manhattan. It has played an important role in the history of the United States and has been the site of several significant events in American history.
The site is home to America's first Congress, first law, first Presidential Oath of Office, first Capital and first Supreme Court. It was also the center of government for the City of New York during the colonial period, serving as the meeting place for the city's Common Council and as the site of various civic and social events.
The memorial is named after a Federal style building on the same site, completed in 1703 as City Hall, which the government of the newly independent United States used during the 1780s. That original structure was demolished in 1812.
The existing building became Federal Hall Memorial National Historic Site in 1939 and a national memorial in 1955. It stands on the site of the original Federal Hall. The current Greek Revival–style building, completed in 1842 as the Custom House, is operated by the National Park Service as a national memorial called the Federal Hall National Memorial.
George Washington's First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789 was on this site—though not this building. George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States. He took the oath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall, which was witnessed by a large crowd of spectators, marking the beginning of a new era in American history. One of the most interesting exhibits on the existing site is the Washington Inaugural Gallery, where you can see the very Bible that Washington used to swear in as president, as well as a stone slab from the balcony he stood on that day in April 1789.
The Supreme Court first assembled on February 1, 1790, in the Exchange Building in New York City -- then the Nation’s Capital. During its time as the nation's capital, Federal Hall served as the seat of the federal government and a site for important events, including the passage of the Bill of Rights in 1789, which was the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. However, in 1790, the capital was moved to Philadelphia and later to Washington, D.C., and Federal Hall ceased to serve as the nation's capitol.
Federal Hall served as the meeting place for the First Congress of the United States from 1789 to 1790, during which important decisions were made regarding the structure and functions of the federal government. The First Congress dealt with issues such as the organization of the executive and legislative branches, the creation of federal departments, and the establishment of a system of federal taxation.
On March 4, 1789 the First Congress of the United States met at Federal Hall, and it was there that the United States Bill of Rights, which comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, was introduced and passed. The Bill of Rights is a fundamental document that guarantees individual freedoms and limits the power of the government, and its passage at Federal Hall was a crucial moment in the history of American constitutional law.
After the American Revolution and the adoption of the United States Constitution in 1787, New York City became the temporary capital of the United States from 1785 to 1790, as the new federal government was being established. In 1788, the Federal Hall building was selected as the site for the nation's first capitol, where the newly created Congress of the United States convened.
On September 6, 2002, the United States Congress convened in New York City for the first time since 1790. Members met in Federal Hall just four blocks from Ground Zero in support of the City and its recovery after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Today, Federal Hall is open to the public and houses exhibits that highlight its historical significance as well as its role in American history and democracy. Federal Hall remains an important landmark in New York City and a symbol of the nation's early history.