Top 10 Historic Facts About Federal Hall

Even though this historic landmark in New York City isn’t the original building on the site, you can learn all about the important events that took place in this Neoclassical building.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Federal Hall, a building that has quite a few remarkable stories to tell.

1. It’s located at an iconic street in New York’s financial district

Federal Hall is the name of 2 buildings, one historic building that was demolished in 1812 and a Greek Revival style structure that still stands on the site today.

This new building is referred to as the Federal Hall National Monument as it has become a popular tourist attraction to learn about the history of the United States.

The building is located on Wall Street, one of the most famous streets in Manhattan and the heart of the financial district of New York City.

Other famous buildings in the area are the New York Stock Exchange, which is situated just south of Federal Hall, and the historic Trinity Church located just to the west.

Federal Hall facts
The building at Wall Street / Chris6d / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

2. The original structure served as New York’s City Hall in the 18th century

It’s hard to imagine today but the city of New York didn’t reach beyond Wall Street to the north in the late 17th century. This area was a farm back then owned by a man named John Damen.

He ended up selling the land of his farm to two New York mayors named Abraham de Peyster and Nicholas Bayard in 1689. They decided to build a new City hall in this location, a project that was completed between 1699 and 1703.

This was a remarkable structure because stones of the wall that once defended New Amsterdam, the former name of New York, were used to build it. This is also why this famous street is known as Wall Street today.

3. An important meeting of the 13 Colonies took place here in 1765

This original City Hall of New York witnessed some of the most important events in the history of the United States unfold. One of these was the so-called “Stamp Act Congress,” a meeting between the 13 colonies of Great Britain.

This meeting took place in October of the year 1765 and was a combined effort of the 13 British colonies to oppose a direct tax levied on them by the British Parliament.

The meetings were held at Federal Hall and were a prelude to the American Revolution that was about to unfold.

Wall Street 18th century
The building in the 18th century / Wiki Commons

4. It served as the meeting place for the U.S. government during the 1780s

The American Revolution eventually culminated in the American Revolutionary War between 1775 and 1783 and the establishment of the United States as a country.

The governing body of the country between March 1, 1781, and March 4, 1789, was referred to as the “Congress of the Confederation.” The meetings of this initial government were held at Federal Hall.

5. The most important moment in American history took place here in 1789

Even though we can define multiple events as “the most important in the history of the United States,” the inauguration of the first President of the country, George Washington, easily qualifies as one of these.

The original structure on the site was enlarged in the “Federal Style” in 1788 and the lead architect was Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the man who designed the capital of the country, Washington D.C.

The first president of the United States was sworn in on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City on April 30, 1789.

George washington sworn in 1789
A drawing of the event that took place on April 30, 1789 / Wiki Commons

6. The Greek Revival building served a different purpose upon completion in 1842

The original New York City Hall ended up being replaced in the early 19th century by a new building. The New York City Hall was built further north between 1803 and 1812 and is the oldest city hall in the country today.

This also means that this historic building was demolished in 1812 as it had lost its purpose by then. No plans to build a new structure on the site were made until the year 1831, and it was quite a different purpose.

The Greek Revival style building you can see today was originally built as the U.S. Customs House for the Port of New York. It was the first building to be built for this particular purpose in the country.

The new Neoclassical building was officially opened in 1842 and cost $928,312 to build. This is the equivalent of well over $20 million today.

Federal Hall fun facts
Back of the building / Jim Henderson / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en

7. Federal Hall was used as a treasury as well until the year 1920

Less than two decades after the newly built customs house was completed it was already deemed too small to accommodate all the duties assigned to it. That’s why the building was repurposed after the customs house was moved down the street to 55 Wall Street starting in August 1862.

The amazing landmark was used as one of the departments of the United States Sub-Treasury, a purpose it served from 1862 until its closure in 1920.

An important event during this period was the placement of a bronze statue of George Washington on the steps of the Sub-Treasury. This is located at about the same location in height as the location he took the oath as the first president of the United States.

Federal Hall statue of George Washington
The statue of George Washington / Daniel Schwen / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

8. The building was almost demolished during the 1930s

The Sub-Treasury became redundant after the establishment of the Federal Reserve Bank, even though it held over $519 million worth of gold by the year 1917 and millions of dollars worth of coins.

One of the most remarkable facts about Federal Hall is that the building almost ended up being demolished in the 1930s. If it wasn’t for a group that was established called the “Federal Hall Memorial Associates,” this might as well have happened.

Because of this group, the building ended up being designated as the “Federal Hall Memorial National Historic Site” on May 26, 1939.

9. It only became a National Monument in the year 1955

The first aim of the Federal Hall Memorial Associates was to establish a museum inside the building dedicated to the history of the original building on the site.

This eventually happened and the building was transformed into a National Memorial in the year 1955. Since then, it has been under the administration of the National Park Service of the United States.

The building features numerous exhibits related to its history and is open on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. It’s a pretty remarkable tourist attraction in Lower Manhattan.

10. The building’s main feature resembles a famous ancient Roman structure

Because of the extended history of the building and the fact that it is located on the site of one of the most important structures in American history, the Neoclassical building was also added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

The building covers an area of 0.45 acres (0.18 hectares) and is lined with Doric Columns. The main feature is a rotunda featuring an amazing dome that resembles one of the most famous domes in the world, that of the Pantheon in Rome.

It has a diameter of 60 feet (18 meters) and just like its famous brother in Rome, it’s self-supporting and features a skylight in the center (even though this one is covered, the one in Rome isn’t).

Federal Hall Dome and Rotunda
Inside the rotunda / Jgrenaldy / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en