Congress Hall

Congress Hall

Picture of Congress Hall in 1700s

Before there was the Capitol building in Washington, DC, there was Congress Hall in Philadelphia.  Continental Congress originally met in Philadelphia, but when the British attacked, they were moved to a safe location in York, Pennsylvania.  They continued to meet there until the Philadelphia Mutiny occurred in 1783.  At that time, Congress was moved to Princeton, New Jersey.  Then the capital was moved to Annapolis, Maryland in November 1783.  It was then moved to Trenton, New Jersey in November of 1784.  In January of 1785, the capital was moved to New York City.  In 1787, the Congress moved back to Philadelphia to work on the Constitution.
Constitution of the United States

View from window at Congress Hall

Robert Morris

Then Robert Morris, a senator from Pennsylvania convinced Congress to make Philadelphia the temporary capital until the one in DC was finished.  The Residence Act was passed making it the capital for the next 10 years.  Finally, Congress returned to Philadelphia on December 6, 1790 and remained there until May 4, 1800 when it officially moved to Washington, DC.

The House of Representatives gathered on the first floor.  When you see the mahogany desks and leather chairs, this is where the 106 representatives from 16 states gathered.  You ask – how was there 16?  Three states joined the new country and were ratified as states while Congress was in session here in Philadelphia.  Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee joined the United States giving them 16. 
House Speaker's chair - Benjamin Franklin

original flooring



House of Representatives

secretary's desk

green velvet draperies

view from a representative's desk

arched window over the main door

mailboxes (see the park ranger's hat on top)


secretary - who took  notes during the sessios

The Senate met on the second floor.  In the committee rooms you will see the pictures of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  These portraits were a gift from the monarch in recognition of the help the French gave the colonies during the war.  In the Senate room, there are 32 secretary desks (the same type of desks are currently used in Washington, DC).  Of the 32 you see, 28 are original.  Just imagine the Founding Fathers sitting in those desks.  The head of the Senate who sat on the chair on the raised dais was Thomas Jefferson himself.  On the ceiling you will see two things – a plaster medallion that is made up of 13 stars that represent the original 13 colonies (and then states) – and a fresco American Eagle.  The rug on the floor is a reproduction of the original rug and shows thirteen stars and symbols of the original states.
portrait of King Louis XVI

portrait of Marie Antoinette

Thomas Jefferson

stairs going up to the Senate floor

Looking down the staircase

committee room

committee room

Senate desks

Red draperies and fireplace

28 of 32 desks are originals

reproduction of rug - see the seals?

Senators in DC have same desks

Raised dais desk and chair for head of the Senate

committee room

There were several monumental events and decisions made here.
·        George Washington was inaugurated for his second term.
George Washington took oath for second term

·        John Adams took his oath of office when he became our second president.
John Adams took his oath of office

·        The Bill of Rights was ratified here.
·        The three states who joined the new union – Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee
·        The First Bank of the United States was established.
First Bank of the US

·        The Federal Mint was established.
·        The Department of the Navy was established.
Commodore Barry - statue outside Congress Hall

·        Jay’s Treaty was ratified.
John Jay's bust

When the government officially moved to Washington, DC, Congress Hall reverted back to its original purpose – the Philadelphia County Courthouse.  After many years, Congress Hall, along with Independence Hall fell into disuse and was in desperate need of a restoration.  The Colonial Dames of America started raising funds for the huge endeavor in 1896.  The restoration project finally started in 1912.  President Woodrow Wilson was present for the rededication.  Congress Hall is currently in the capable hands of the National Parks Service who offer tours and maintain the buildings.

The Continental Congress meeting

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