on July 4, 2010
Independence Hall is the building where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed. As such, it is one of America’s most important historic landmarks. It’s located in downtown Philadelphia on Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets. Independence Hall is one of the major attractions of Independence National Historic Park, which also includes the Liberty Bell Center.Tickets are required to visit Independence Hall, but they’re free and available at the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market Streets, just a quick walk north in Independence Park. The tickets are available first come first serve only and only on the day of the visit for specific start times. A well known secret is to arrive at Independence Hall late, as we did, around 4:30 PM, and tickets aren’t required for the last tour of the day. Of course you do risk the possibility of waiting in line for the last tour of the day only to find it full and get turned away.Independence Hall was completed in 1753, and maintained quite well. In fact, the exterior brickwork is quite gorgeous. Looking straight up, the bell tower of Independence Hall used to house the Liberty Bell, which now resides in the Liberty Bell Center on the other side of Chestnut Street. When we were led inside for the final tours of the day, we could see that the interior was also very well maintained. Independence Hall’s original purpose was as the meeting hall for the Philadelphia State House, and eventually became the first Capitol building of the newly formed United States. The first stop of our tour took us upstairs to the chambers used for the House Chamber. The park ranger had us sit in the chairs at the council desks. The ranger explained that the furniture was not the original, but recreations, which made us feel a slight bit better. The House Chamber features desks and accompanying chairs arranged in rows and surrounding the front of the room, which features two desks facing towards the back of the room, and an elevated platform with another desk behind them. After the ranger explained the use of the room, she allowed us time to roam around the room and take photos.After this, we proceeded downstairs to the first floor and to the central hallway. The rangers explained that the large central hallway was sometimes used for banquets and other functions. We went to the west side of the hallway, which contained the courtroom. The courtroom looked similar to a modern courtroom, with judge’s bench to the front, litigants table in the middle, and an area in the back for audiences. There is the traditional caged stand for the accused. After the ranger spoke about the courthouse, she led us across the hallway to the chamber used by the Assembly, which is also where the founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, created the basis for a new nation. Like the courthouse, we could only stand in the rear galley, as the front where the delegates sat and worked, were off limits. It’s very interesting and awe inspiring to know that over 200 years ago, our founding fathers worked on, debated, and negotiated both the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution. In an interesting observation, the Assembly Chamber seemed a lot smaller in scale than the images depicted on the hundred dollar bill. We were finished with the park ranger guided tour, and proceeded on our own to the west wing of Independence Hall, which has original copies of the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution. The documents were kept sealed in bulletproof glass with a special mix of gases to preserve them. We could take photographs, but no flash was allowed. There were also other displays explaining the significance and history of these documents, as well as some of the supporting documents.An interesting observation was noted in the courtyard of Independence Hall. There's a statue of Commodore Barry, the father of the United States Navy, centrally located in the courtyard. This seemed like on odd place for the statue, until a park ranger explained that the US Navy was created at Independence Hall. I learned something new today.All in all, this is a one-of-a-kind experience, to step back in time to a place where our nation was founded. The National Park Service has done a great job of maintaining Independence Hall and making it available to us, as well as helping us realize the significance of this historic monument.
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