Independence Hall

What we know of as Independence Hall was not its original name or purpose.  Millions of people flock there every year to see where history was made.  They want to see where our country began.  Growing up in Philadelphia, Independence Hall was a common field trip, so just imagine children across our country who never have the chance to visit it.  Who never get to see those rooms and feel the power of those words - "We the People" and "When in the Course of Human Events".

Since I took hundreds of pictures on our journey, I thought it would be perfect to create a virtual field trip for students across the country - to see what I saw, to learn a bit about the building that draws millions.  Have fun.

the left wing of the building

Independence Hall under construction

Independence Hall was originally the Pennsylvania State House and was built from 1732 to 1753.  It took so long for it be finished because it was paid for in pieces.  As you walk through the halls and rooms you get a sense of what it must have felt like to be there when Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson stood there as well.  While the building itself has been renovated many times, it wasn't until the National Park service took over in 1950 that it started to resemble what it was in the 1700s.

statue of George Washington in the front

We entered through these doors to begin our journey into the past.

Imagine the view our Founding Fathers would have

It was in these buildings where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. It was also here where the Constitution was debated.  Only Rhode Island did not send delegates to debate the Constitution.  George Washington himself presided over the debates and provided the voice of reason when tempers flared and disagreements ensued.  Remember the Constitution was written after the war, so Washington did not voice his own opinions, but became more of a moderator during the debates, allowing the men to speak freely and listen to each other's arguments.

this is where the secretary sat and took notes

this long parson's bench was a regular feature in many colonial homes

this very room was where they debated
Except when the British occupied Philadelphia, Independence Hall was the meeting place for the delegates of the Continental Congress.  It was in these very rooms where George Washington was asked to lead the troops and become the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.  So many important events happened in these very rooms - from signing the Declaration of Independence to deciding on the flag what would represent our country to signing the Constitution.  You feel the power of these rooms as soon as you walk inside. You become overcome by the spirit of the men who designed our country and the very documents which still guide us to this day.

this symbol had everything to do with why they wanted freedom

the Founding Fathers sat around tables like these while they talked

This is the very room where they debated
In the background you see a chair that presides over all others.  It is the chair with a rising sun on the back.  This is the very chair where George Washington sat.  It was called the rising sun by Benjamin Franklin.  Some argued it could not be distinguished between a rising sun and a setting sun, but Franklin with his usual verbosity, declared it must be a rising sun - because he felt we as a country were just beginning to rise.  A more perfect sentiment could not have been spoken.

picture the delegates from every colony represented here

writing implements - no pens back then
In September of 1774, fifty-five delegates gathered here to compile a list of grievances for King George III.  It became known as the First Continental Congress.  They knew they would need to meet again once they got their response from the king so they agreed to meet again the following year.  Before they could even meet, troubles were brewing in Massachusetts.  The King had refused to listen to their words, the Stamp Act occurred, and the Boston Massacre.  A powderkeg of events had ignited that would change everything.

many of the Founding Fathers smoked pipes (tobacco was a huge crop)

Beautiful - the architects were Andrew Hamilton and Edmund Wooley

Did you know that at the time of the revolution over 30,000 people lived in Philadelphia making it the largest city in the colonies?  As a matter of fact, there were more than 300,000 people living in Pennsylvania, which does not seem like much to us where cities have millions, but back then, this was huge.  Only Virginia had as many people at that time.  Word traveled slowly from one colony to another, so gathering all those men together in one place was quite a feat.

Look at the amazing stairs that seem to hang from air

the balcony and the woodwork are exquisite

Some of you might recall this clock from the movie "National Treasure"

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Just imagine the men gathered in this room.  Long rows of desks and chairs lined the room, going in a semi-circle.  When you sit here (and they do allow you to sit here), you get the impression no one was more important than anyone else.  No desks are fancier than others.  No chairs are different.  Every man, no matter his wealth or status, sat at the same type of desk and had the same say in the government.  the only person with the real power was Benjamin Franklin who sat on that dais above all others as he moderated the discussions (remember at this time, Washington was busy fighting the British).

This is the chair where Benjamin Franklin sat
It took a lot of debating, but the  men finally agreed there should be a separation of powers.  No one part should be more powerful than another.  This gave us the three branches of government - the executive, the legislative, and the judicial.  The men decided to base the new form of government on the Virginia  Plan (which by coincidence was written by Thomas Jefferson).

see the high ceilings and archways

these double doors opened to the front courtyard
Remember these were many wealthy men gathered together.  Men of properly since only men of property were allowed to vote, let alone go out and speak to others.  They needed to decide who should have more power - which state (since each colony was not to become its own state) would have more delegates in this new form of government.  The smaller states were not pleased with the idea of size being a deciding factor.  Instead, it was decided that the Senate would be made up of equal members from each state to not show favoritism to any one state.  This idea was presented by Roger Sherman from Connecticut.  But the House could be based upon the population.  Since the southern states had so many slaves, they wanted more voting power. Amazingly they decided to count every slave as 3/5s of a person since of course they could not vote, nor could they pay taxes. Imagine if someone told you, you only counted as 3/5s of a person.

another bench where visitors can sit and wait

this stairwell is quite steep

I imagined looking out over the President's House which sat just a bit ahead

committee rooms where men further discussed important topics

Our Senate met within these walls

This is where Thomas Jefferson -presided over of the Senate

once more - look how the desks are alive and arranged in a semi-circle

nothing fancy about these chairs or desks

the furniture was simple and functional - nothing more was needed.

a new symbol of our country

the King of France who has an honored position because of his aid

another meeting room

See Marie Antoinette in the portrait - France was our friend

the men needed to place their pipes somewhere

I hate to say this, but yes, Righty went for  ride that day

wrought iron balcony the men might step out on.

I hope you learned some things you did not know about Independence Hall before.  If you wish to learn more, visit the National Parks service site.

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