Regular readers will recall my passionate enthusiasm for the National Park Service. A quick search on my blog and you will find dozens of sites we have visited- check them out here. Whenever we travel or visit a new area, I always check for any nearby site- the Park Service has an app and website for searching sites. On a recent trip to lower Manhattan to explore the Fraunces Tavern Museum and National Museum of the American Indian, we realized we were less than a half mile from Federal Hall National Memorial and decided to visit.
Federal Hall is most well known as the site of George Washington’s inauguration on April 30, 1789. The building, erected in 1703, was the home of the British royal governor’s council and the assembly of New York. The building was later used as a City Hall, a place to protest “taxation without representation”, and as America’s first capital. The current building was built in 1842 and served as a U.S. Custom House until 1862 when Abraham Lincoln converted the building to a branch of the United States Independent Treasury system. It also served as a public gathering during trials and turmoil like the 1929 Stock Market Crash.
The Hall is part of the National Parks of New York Harbor, which includes 9 other locations such as Castle Clinton National Monument and Statue of Liberty National Monument– read our tips about visiting here.
Traveling with Kids:
The Hall is FREE to visit and is open Monday- Friday 9am-5pm and is open on Saturdays during the summer. Check here for updates. The Hall is closed on Sundays.
The Hall is located in the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. Parking is extremely limited. Take the subway, 4 or 5 (green) trains, to the Wall Street exit. Check here for more information and options.
Restrooms are located on the lower level and a gift shop is located on the main floor, to the right of the main entrance.
Ranger led, guided tours are offered each day- check here for the schedule
Ten Things to Do at Federal Hall Memorial:
1. Climb the front stairs (carefully!) and pose for a photo standing next to the statue of Washington. The statue is placed in the exact spot where Washington took the oath of office. Make sure to get a photo from both sides- looking out onto Wall Street too!
2. Grab a “This Place Matters” booklet right inside the Hall- it has important insights into the historical people and events related to the Hall. The booklet also provides a map to follow for self guided tours.
3. Find the circular indentation in the Rotunda and stand where thousands of sea captains and merchants once stood in line to pay their customs levies.
4. Compare the painting of Washington’s Inauguration in Room 1 to everything you might have read about that day. How accurate was your interpretation compared to Ramon Elorriga’s interpretation?
5. Don’t miss the inaugural bible that Washington used in Room 2 .
6. Watch the video in Room 3 that explains the history of the National Parks of New York Harbor.
7. Compare out the architectural models that show the progress of Federal Hall in Room 3.
8. Note the size of the vault in Room 4 (lower level) where gold was stored. On any given day, over 200 million dollars in assets were held in the vaults.
9. Read about dozens of other National Parks locations throughout America in the exhibit in Room 5. There are over 400 sites throughout America.
10. Make sure to get your National Parks passport stamps (there are two) in Room 5. There are also tons of brochures and information about other National Parks sites and other lower Manhattan sites of interest.