text: seven walking tours through historic Philadelphia

First Bank of the United States

first bank exterior

Just south of Chestnut on the west side of 3rd St. is the First Bank of the United States. This oldest bank in the United States was erected between 1795 and 1797 and was once described as a "stately...building still standing in lonely grandeur." Since those words were written, the National Park Service has developed the area and the building's splendid setting we see today is the result.

The building was occupied by the First Bank of the United States (founded 1791) until 1811 when its charter lapsed.

Stephen Girard (1750-1831), a French immigrant who succeeded very rapidly in Philadelphia as merchant and ship owner and whom we remember as a philanthropist, bought it for his private bank in 1812 and the Girard National Bank occupied the building after his death, from 1832 until 1926.

The handsome gates, which flank the building and lead to the park, have been erected in recent years.

first bank exterior closeup: eagle pediment

A notable feature of the building is the pediment which is adorned with a beautifully carved American eagle, and the leafy Roman Corinthian capitals give it a special grace.

Independence Hall Area