Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Webpage: National Park
General Description: During the time of the Revolutionary War, Philadelphia was considered to the be the most modern and genteel city in the British colonies. It was also centrally located for the 13 colonies and thus became the focus of much of our nation’s early history. The First Continental Congress was held at Carpenters’ Hall where delegates from all the colonies met in 1774 and drafted a petition to King George protesting the enforcement of the Intolerable Acts. When this petition was rejected by the British, the colonists held a Second Continental Congress the following year to organize a defense against the British. This time, however, they met in Independence Hall, which at the time was built in 1753 for the Pennsylvania colonial legislature and courthouse for the Province. By this point in 1775 the Revolution had already started with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. In the first month, the Continental Congress formally created the Continental Army and appointed George Washington as its commanding general. In July, 1775 they extended the Olive Branch Petition as a final act of reconciliation. Even though the Congress was moving towards independence from Britain, most of the delegates did not have the authorization from their colonies to vote for independence. In June, 1776 the Virginia delegation proposed a resolution for independence that was delayed for several weeks while delegates obtained authority from their governments and a formal declaration could be written. The Declaration of Independence was amended and passed without opposition on July 2, 1776 and on July 4, formally announced to the public. Copies had to be made so it was not until August of 1776 that it was ready for the signatures of the delegates. The complex also includes Congress Hall where the first House of Representative and Senate met from December, 1790 to May 1800 passing the Bill of Rights, admission of Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and the inaugurations of President Washington and President Adams. In addition to Independence Hall, the Independence Historical Park includes the display of the Liberty Bell, the Ben Franklin Museum, Library of the American Philosophical Society, Carpenters’ Hall, New Hall Military Museum, First and Second Bank of the United States, Dolley Todd House, Bishop White House, The United States Custom House, City Tavern, and Christ Church.
1) The Independence Visitor Center is a huge building that contains a museum with exhibits about all the historical structures and short movies. The short movie we saw dealt with the events leading up to our independence as told by the principal parties. This is also the location where you get the free ticket for tours of Independence Hall. Be sure to get there early in the day as there is a high demand for the tickets even in early May.
2) The Liberty Bell Center is the modern location of the Liberty Bell. There is always a line to get into the facility that can take an hour to gain access after passing through the security check. They have some nice exhibits about the history of the bell and its importance as a symbol throughout our history, but of course, the main attraction is the Liberty Bell which you get almost close enough to touch.
3) The Independence Hall tour is certainly worth the time!!! National Park Rangers conduct the tour which begins with an introduction in the East Wing. From their you move into the main building which had two large rooms. On the west is the courthouse which has been restored to the look it had in the 1700s with the bar and “cage” for the defendant.
4) The east wing of Independence Hall is where the Continental Congress met and it has been restored with the tables and chairs as it was during this time period. While it does look smaller then I expected, it certainly does look like the room depicted in the movie “1776”. It was awe inspiring to be in the same room as where this all occurred.
5) While this is the end of the formal tour, don’t miss the chance to visit Congress Hall. On the first floor is the first House of Representatives and you get to sit in chairs behind the desks they would have used. On the second floor is the Senate, and Conference Rooms. As expected the Senate is smaller than the House. It was interesting to learn that the building had to be expanded to the south with the addition of the three new states and their Representatives and Senators.
6) We did walk by the First and Second Banks of the United States which were not open to the public when we were there. The First Bank is the first National Bank for the country to establish fiscal order, credit, and common currency. The Second Bank’s primary function was to regulate public credit and establish a sound currency.
7) Unfortunately, it was too late in the day to see Carpenters’ Hall, except from the outside. This was the location for the First Continental Congress.
8) While we did not take the time to go inside the Ben Franklin Museum, they have constructed a metal outline of his house and show areas that have been excavated. You can also see his Printing Office and Post Office at the same location.
9) There is more to this Historical Park then you can possibly see in a day. We did not get to tour the Dolley Todd House or Bishop White House which provide examples of the merchant and upper class homes at the time of the Revolution.
10) We considered getting a brew at the City Tavern which is where the delegates often met to discuss matters.
11) We also did not have time to visit Christ Church or the cemetery.