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From 1790 to 1800

Those members of the Continental Congress who returned to serve in various capacities during the decade from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia was the seat of the federal government, must have found much in the city that was unfamiliar. For, with the burst of postrevolutionary prosperity, Philadelphia had expanded rapidly. Writing in 1793, Mathew Carey observed: "From the period of the adoption of the federal government at which time America was at the lowest ebb of distress, her situation [was] universally restored.... In this prosperity... Philadelphia participated in an eminent degree. Numbers of new houses, in almost every street, built in a very neat, elegant stile, adorned, at the same time that they greatly enlarged the city." Some old landmarks had disappeared in the neighborhood of the State House; others had been altered; new ones made their appearance during the decade. Dock Creek had been filled to Third Street and was lined with new buildings. The Carpenters' Company had erected their New Hall on the west side of their court in 1790. The State House had undergone major changes. Its steeple had been removed in 1781, and the stair tower was now capped by a low hipped roof. More importantly, two handsome edifices flanked the wing buildings: one to the east to serve as City Hall; one to the west for the county offices, better known because of its function during the decade as Congress Hall. Behind City Hall was the new brick building of the American Philosophical Society. The State House Yard had been landscaped in the new romantic taste, with artificial mounds and declivities, serpentine paths, informally disposed clumps of elms and willows, and benches for the enjoyment of the public. Across Fifth Street from the State House Yard, the slaughterhouse was gone. The graceful new building of the Library Company occupied part of what had been the Norris garden. Nearer to Walnut Street were the Philadelphia Dispensary and Surgeons' Hall, the remainder of the block still being occupied by somewhat ramshackle wooden buildings.



©1995-2014 by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, PA founded in 1942. Publishing electronically as ushistory.org.; online since July 4, 1995.
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