Independence Hall is a historic civic building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Not only was it home to the Liberty Bell or the first grand state-building to be built in the “New World”, but it was in fact the location of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
The USA In the 1700s
The United States was not an independent country in the early 1700s. A collection of colonies along the East Coast by a number of European settlers. Dutch, Finns, English, Germans, Scots, French and even Spanish settlers helped to found New Netherlands (now part of New York), Pennsylvania, New England, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and New Spain. This collection of colonies would, over the next 70 years or so, start the movement to gain independence and become their own country, free of their ties to their European past.
Pennsylvania was founded by and named after William Penn, a Quaker who arrived in the “New World'' in 1682 and wanted to create a welcoming state for others who followed his religion. It was one of the original 13 colonies. Even back in the 1720s, Philadelphia was its capitol.
The name Philadelphia was created by Penn by putting together the Greek words of “phileo” and “adelphos” which mean “Love” and “brother”. This is why Philadelphia is called “The city of brotherly love”.
The Demand for a State Building
In 1729, citizens of Philadelphia were petitioning to build a state house. 2,000 British Pounds were set aside for the construction of the building. Today, that would be worth $623,848 USD - not very much but labour and material costs would have been much cheaper.
Actual construction of the building began in 1732 and, at the time, was the most detailed and ambitious building that was being built in all of the 13 colonies.
Philadelphia lawyer Andrew Hamilton was the one that oversaw the planning and construction of the state building.
Design and Building of Independence Hall
The style of architecture of Independence hall is Georgian style. Georgian architecture can be found in thousands of buildings constructed between 1714 and 1830. Symmetry and proportion which mirrors classical Greek and Roman architecture are icons of this style. Decor and ornament is much more toned down than in other architectural styles and the outside of Georgian buildings can even look quite plain.
The original design of the building included a 105 foot long main building with two 50 foot long wings and two covered walkways. It was designed to house three branches of the colonial government of Pennsylvania.
Master Builder Edmund Woolley designed the building. As a Master Builder in the 1700’s, he was skilled in architecture, engineering and carpentry - three unique specialties in today’s Construction industry.
Materials of Independence Hall
Independence Hall, like many historic buildings including the White House, have undergone many reconstructions and updates. The main facade, however, still sports the original red bricks used in construction in the 1700s. The keystone windows were carved from marble and the balustrade and cornice are carved from wood. The windows on the south side of the building are Palladian. Palladian is a specific design of window with three sections where the middle window is arched at the top. They were designed to be more stately than simple picture windows.
The main steeple at the top of the building had two chambers. It was the lower chamber that held the Liberty Bell.
Independence Hall and the Declaration of Independence
Independence Hall was the location where the First and Second Continental Congress were held. Between 1774 - 1789 the Continental Congress was the governing body for the 13 American Colonies. The first meeting in 1774 was a direct response to a series of British imposed measures on taxes for those living in the American colonies. The second time they met was in 1775 to unite the colonies after the American Revolutionary War and established themselves as the American Government. It was almost a year later, on July 4, 1776 that they signed the Declaration of Independence, officially stating they were separating from Britain.
The signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th involved almost every significant political person in the Americas at the time. Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Hancock, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Patrick Henry and even George Washington were all there and signed.
Alexander Hamilton is the person of interest in the latest Broadway hit musical Hamilton. This musical has reignited a passion for US history before the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Today, a whole new generation of American and global citizens alike have grown an interest in American History.
The Liberty Bell
Aside from the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Independence Hall is also recognized as the original home for the Liberty Bell.
The bell itself was commissioned in 1751 to hand in the newly built State House. The bell itself was cast in London, England by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. It arrived in Philadelphia in 1752 and, while testing it, the clapper cracked the dome of the bell. It was twice recast before being hung in the lower vestibule of the steeple in 1753.
They say that the bell was run on July 4th, 1776 to signify the signing of the Declaration of Independence and then again four days later on July 8th when the Declaration was read to the public for the first time. In 1777 when British forces entered Philadelphia it was hidden out of fear that the British troops would melt it down to make bullets.
It was rehung at Independence Hall. In 1835 when the bell was hung during the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall, the bell cracked again. The last time it rang was in 1846 to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. It cracked beyond repair at this point and was removed to another part of Independence National Historic Park.
The name “Liberty Bell” was first used in a news pamphlet when it spoke of the bell as a symbol of hope and freedom.
Over 2 million people travel to see the bell every year.
Independence Hall Today
Today, Independence Hall stands as the centerpiece of Independence National Historic Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Almost a million people visited the park in 2020 alone and this building stands as an iconic historical landmark of the creation of the United States of America.