George Washington Statue at Federal Hall, Wall Street, New York City
Statue of George Washington in front of the Federal Hall, Wall Street, Manhattan, New York City - October 2004.
The Birthplace of American Government
Here on Wall Street, George Washington took the oath of office as our first President, and this site was home to the first Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch offices. The current structure, a Customs House, later served as part of the US Sub-Treasury. Now, the building serves as a museum and memorial to our first President and the beginnings of the United States of America.
Many of the most important legislative actions in the United States occurred with the 1st Congress at Federal Hall. First among these were adoption of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution; not long after the new federal Constitution was ratified, many Americans began to express their concern for its limited protection of individual liberties. Twelve amendments to the Constitution were initially drafted, ten were agreed upon, and on September 25, 1789, the Bill of Rights was adopted in Federal Hall, establishing the freedoms claimed by the Stamp Act Congress on the same site 24 years earlier. Also, the Judiciary Act of 1789 was enacted in the building which set up the United States Court System, which is still in use today. In addition, The Northwest Ordinance was adopted at Federal Hall which set up what would later become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, but more fundamentally it prohibited slavery in these future states.
In 1790, the United States capital was moved to Philadelphia and what had been Federal Hall once again housed New York City government until 1812, when the building was razed. The current structure, one of the best surviving examples of classical architecture in New York, was built as the country's first Customs House, opening in 1842, and later served as one of six United States Sub-Treasury locations and a Federal Reserve Bank.
Two prominent American ideals are reflected in the building's architecture: The Doric columns of the façade, designed by Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis, resemble those of the Parthenon and serve as a tribute to Greek democracy; the domed ceiling inside, designed by John Frazee, echoes the Pantheon and the economic might of the Romans.
The current structure is often overshadowed among downtown landmarks by the New York Stock Exchange, which is located diagonally across Wall and Nassau Streets, but the site is one of the most important in the history of the United States and, particularly, the foundation of the United States Government and its democratic institutions. The current building is well-known for the bronze statue of George Washington on its front steps, marking the site where he was inaugurated as US President in the former structure.
George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was a central and critical figure in the founding of the United States, and is commonly referred to as father of the nation. He led America's Continental Army to victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), and in 1789 was elected the first President of the United States of America. He served two four-year terms from 1789 to 1797, winning reelection in 1792. His devotion to republicanism and civic virtue made him an exemplary figure among early American politicians.