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The Future of Historic Buildings
Through all the decades of change, numerous buildings survived that had witnessed the genesis of the nation and the early days of the Republic. Some lasted because of the sentiment or conservatism of their owners; others because there was no demand for the land on which they stood. The Independence Hall group, Carpenters' Hall, the First and Second Banks of the United States, Christ Church, and other colonial churches were engulfed by the later city, while to the south, hundreds of half-forgotten early buildings in Society Hill succumbed slowly to decay. Except for Independence Square and Washington Square to its southwest, parking lots provided the only open space. As the government of the City of Philadelphia finally left Independence Square, groups of Philadelphians from all walks of life began to concern themselves with the future of the historic buildings and their surroundings.
Even while the area around them changed, two buildings increasingly were viewed as shrines: Independence Hall and Carpenters' Hall. Other historic buildings in the area survived through chance or because they continued to serve a purpose akin to that for which they were designed. In contrast, Independence Hall and Carpenters' Hall were the objects of pioneering historic preservation efforts. Carpenters' Hall, removed from commercial use and opened to the public in 1857, was refurbished on several occasions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; Independence Hall underwent a long series of alterations and restorations in its gradual transformation from Pennsylvania State House to national shrine.