Independence National Historic Park is a sprawling urban complex in Center City that celebrates the birth of our nation through restored historic structures, museums, and monuments.
Though the US Government began in New York, it was moved to Philadelphia a year later as a temporary compromise to a desire to locate the capital on the banks of the Potomac. Hoping that the government could be persuaded to stay, Philadelphians did their best to make it comfortable. The new County Courthouse and the City Hall were turned over to the Congress and the Supreme Court. Robert Morris made his mansion available for President Washington and his family. Philadelphia remained the nation's capital for ten years.
Independence Park is best seen in an orderly fashion. Devote an entire day to it if you can. The Visitor Center features a 30-minute introductory film and an exhibit chronicling the United States Constitution during its first 200 years. A variety of literature and maps is available here. The Bicentennial Bell, Britain's gift to America in 1976, hangs in a 130-foot tower outside.
- Carpenter's Hall (925-0167), was originally built to accommodate meetings of the Carpenters' Company, an association of master builders. It was the meeting place for the First Continental Congress. Though this meeting established disagreements with British rule, a revolution was not yet being considered.
A small exhibit of artifacts tells the story. If you are lucky you'll have a fine gentlemen named John tell you the story while wearing his Colonial garb. Open Tuesday - Sunday, 10 - 4. Closed Tuesdays in winter.
- Congress Hall was the Philadelphia County Courthouse and later the site of the Federal Congress. George Washington and John Adams held their inaugurations here.
- Franklin Court marks the site of Ben Franklin's House and his grandson's print shop. Neither building exists. The Underground Museum houses Franklin memorabilia and features a number of neat, interactive exhibits telling the story of the man and his contributions. A replica of Franklin's Glass Armonica, a unique musical instrument, can be seen and heard here. An entertaining film presentation further highlights Franklin's accomplishments, which are truly quite amazing. Note: the Underground Museum is scheduled to close on June 1, 2011 for an 18 month project to create the new Ben Franklin Museum. The courtyard and other buildings will remain open.
- Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia (574-6114), two blocks from Independence Hall, serves financial institutions and is not a commercial bank. Visitors can see Alexander Calder's White Cascade, the largest mobile in the world. Open Monday - Friday, 9am - 3pm.
- Graff House (aka The Declaration House) is a reconstruction of the site where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.
- Independence Hall was originally the Pennsylvania State House. On May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress convened here. Admission to this building is by Guided Tour only, which lasts about 30 minutes.
- Library Hall housed America's first circulating library (established by Ben Franklin) and is now the home of the library of the American Philosophical Society. Visitors can see a some of Franklin's papers and manuscripts. Monday - Friday, 9 - 5.
- The Liberty Bell Pavilion houses one of America's two most significant symbols of freedom, the Liberty Bell. This is the Park's most visited monument. Completed in 1753, the Bell commemorated the anniversary of William Penn's Charter. It cracked during its first test, and then again some time later.
The Liberty Bell originally hung in Independence Hall, which could not accommodate the tens of thousands of visitors who wanted to see the Bell. At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the bell of Independence Hall rang to proclaim liberty throughout the land. It was a powerful moment signalling the rise of a new nation.Today the Bell is enshrined in s small glass, steel, and concrete building.
- Old City Hall, Philadelphia's City Hall, was home to the United States Supreme Court from 1791 to 1800.
- Second Bank of the United States moved to this building in 1824. It first was housed in Carpenters' Hall. Today visitor's can see the Park's portrait gallery here.
- Thaddeus Kosciuzko National Memorial features a reconstruction of the living quarters of Kosciuzko, a Polish patriot who fought with Washington and helped design the United States Military Academy at West Point.
- Todd House and Bishop White House can be seen through an hour-long tour which is limited to ten people only. Both houses have been restored to reflect the life styles of the period, one middle class and the other upper class.
- Free Quaker Meeting House was built in 1783 and is one of Philadelphia's oldest meeting houses. The Free Quakers supported and fought in the Revolution.
- Christ Church, built between 1727 and 1754, is considered an outstanding example of 18th century American architecture.
Several other sites are operated by the Park, a couple of which are outside of the main park area.Information on all of the above sites can be obtained by calling the Visitor Center phone number, (215) 597-8974. There are no specific programs for School Groups. However, an abundance of literature, guides and maps available at the Visitor Center makes it easy for teachers and other group leaders to arrange a tour covering just what their groups need.