Independence Hall: Building Freedom
There is no better way to celebrate July 4 than to virtually visit Independence Hall. As the birth and final adoption place of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, millions of visitors from around the world flock to the site. While Independence Hall is surrounded by history and within steps of the Liberty Bell, few people realize the backstory of the building before and after the meetings and signing of the famed documents.
The History of the Building
In early 1732, Independence Hall was constructed as a meeting place for the government of Pennsylvania and named the Pennsylvania State House. By the end of the century, Pennsylvania State Capitol was moved to Lancaster due to the use of the building as the meeting place for the Second Continental Congress (1775 to 1783) and the Constitutional Convention (1787).
After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, his body was placed in state for two days in Independence Hall as an honor. It was felt that Lincoln so embodied the spirit of independence that his body could only be memorialized in the space where the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence was signed. In that two day period, over 80,000 visited to pay their respects.
In 1915, another historic event took place in Independence Hall with the announcement by President Taft of the formation of the League to Enforce Peace. The League to Enforce Peace would become the League of Nations and, finally, the United Nations.
Architecture Meets History
The Georgian architecture of Independence Hall reflects the style prominent during the reign of the three Georges - I, II, and III - in England between 1714 and 1830. The highlights of a Georgian design typically include (source):
- Rigid symmetry in building mass as well as window and door placement
- Brick, stone, or stucco (brick is most predominantly used)
- Hip roofs - sometimes with dormers
- Window decorative headers
- Entrance embellishments, such as pediments, arched tops, and ogee caps
"Georgian architecture is characterized by its proportion and balance; simple mathematical ratios were used to determine the height of a window in relation to its width or the shape of a room as a double cube." (source)
Virtually Tour of the Steeple & Tower at Independence Hall
The steeple and tower were added as an after thought to Independence Hall shortly after construction. By 1773, the wooden steeple was rotted and needed to be removed. In 1828, the city of Philadelphia hired architect William Strickland to design a replacement for the steeple. Strickland's hotly contested design updated the Georgian design of the building.
"Strickland deviated from the original design, incorporating a clock and additional ornamentation." (source)
Check out the virtual tour of the steeple and tower added by Strickland from the National Parks Services.
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