Frequently Asked Questions
How big is Independence Hall?
- Independence Hall comprises 6 parts:
- the main building or hall
- brick arcade of 3 arches on the west side of the hall
- brick arcade of 3 arches on the east side of the hall
- wing building on the far side of the western arcade
- wing building on the far side of the eastern arcade
- the brick tower and wooden steeple.
The hall itself is 107 feet by 45 feet. Attached to the south side of it is the brick tower which is 35 feet square, topped with the wooden steeple. The total height of the tower and steeple is 176 feet to the top of the wind vane.
A complete set of measured drawing of Independence Hall by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) can be found in the Pictures section of this website.
When was it built?
- It was built as the State House for the colony of Pennsylvania. Construction on the hall, arcades, and wing buildings was begun in 1732 and completed in 1748. Construction on the tower and wooden steeple was begun in 1750 and completed in 1753. The original steeple was removed in 1781, and a new wooden steeple built in 1828. This is the steeple we see today.
Who designed it?
- Philadelphia lawyer Andrew Hamilton is credited with the overall design of the hall. Edmund Wooley was the master carpenter and may have been the architect for most of the details.
How did it get its name?
- The Marquis de Lafayette, who had fought in the Revolutionary War, visited Philadelphia in 1824. He was entertained in the Assembly Room, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution had been signed, and he named the room “The Hall of Independence.” Later, Independence Hall came to mean the whole building rather than the single room.
Which side is the front?
- The side facing Chestnut Street and the new Liberty Bell Center was the original front of the building. The tower side of the hall facing the State House Yard, with a statue of John Barry is the most familiar view.
Who owns Independence Hall?
- The hall is owned by the city of Philadelphia. The land on which it stands is part of Independence National Historical Park, and is owned by the National Park Service.
Was Independence Hall almost torn down?
- Yes. After the national capital moved to Washington, D.C. in 1800, there was little use for the hall. The State of Pennsylvania considered selling it and dividing the State House Yard into building lots as early as 1802. The state came close to demolishing the hall in 1816. Instead, the city of Philadelphia bought the buildings and State House Yard.
Is the building real? How much of it is original?
- Yes, the building is real, and more than 250 years old. Most of the exterior is original, but most of the interior is recreated. The interiors underwent extensive restoration during the 1950s and 1960s. The Assembly Room is almost entirely recreated; only one board (the panel behind the dais with the carved shell) is original. The rest of the woodwork was replaced during alterations in 1816 and 1831, and presumably was discarded. Most of the paneling in the Supreme Court Room is original, although the paneling on the west wall is largely recreated. The paneling in the Center Hall and the Tower Stairwell is largely original. Almost all of the second floor woodwork is recreated, although one of the brass chandeliers is original.
Is the furniture real? Are the interiors original?
- The Rising Sun chair and the Phillip Syng inkstand are real and original to the building. Most of the furnishings throughout the building are 18th century antiques, but not original to Independence Hall.
How did the Rising Sun Chair get its name?
- The original furniture of Independence Hall was burned by the British, probably as firewood, during the 1777-78 occupation of Philadelphia. The carved mahogany armchair was made by Philadelphia cabinetmaker John Folwell in 1779. George Washington sat in the armchair while presiding officer of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. At the successful conclusion of the convention, Benjamin Franklin stated that he had looked at the carved sun at the top of the chair many times, but had never known whether it was rising or setting. With agreement on the Constitution, he announced that it was a rising sun, symbolic of the promising future of the United States.
Why is the silver inkstand important?
- It is believed to have been used for the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The inkstand was made by Phillip Syng, Jr. in 1752 for the speaker’s table of the Pennsylvania Assembly. It is not known where it was hidden during the 1777-78 British occupation of Philadelphia. After the Revolutionary War it was used by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and taken to Harrisburg when the state capital moved there in 1799. Sometime prior to the Centennial in 1876, it was returned to Independence Hall where it has been on display ever since.
Why is this building important?
When was Philadelphia the national capital?
- Philadelphia was the de facto capital of the 13 Colonies beginning with the First Continental Congress in 1774. Although Congress met elsewhere during the 1777-78 British occupation of Philadelphia, it returned to the city and remained there until 1783. After short periods in Princeton, New Jersey, Annapolis, Maryland, and Trenton, New Jersey, Congress settled in New York City in 1785. The Residence Act of 1790 named Philadelphia the temporary capital of the United States for 10 years while the permanent national capital was under construction on the banks of the Potomac River. Congress convened in Philadelphia on the first Monday in December 1790. It convened in the District of Columbia in November 1800.
Did any women, African Americans or Native Americans participate in the events at Independence Hall?
Was the declaration read on July 4, 1776?
Who signed the documents?
Why did the Continental Congress move from Carpenters’ Hall to Independence Hall?
What happened during the 1777-78 British occupation of Philadelphia?
Who’s statues are in front, behind the hall?
Do I need tickets to visit Independence Hall?
Is it true slave trials were held at the hall?
Was the basement of the hall used as a dog pound?
Are there any ghosts?