Independence Hall: Facts & History

Instructor: Amy Lively

Amy has an M.A. in American History. She has taught history at all levels, from university to middle school.

This lesson discusses Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a building that is considered to be the birthplace of American freedom. Learn more about the history of the former Pennsylvania State House and then test your factual knowledge with a quiz.

History of Independence Hall - the Beginning

Soon after Pennsylvania's founder, William Penn, signed the constitution known as The Charter of Privileges, the colony's citizens wanted a home for their government. It did not seem fitting that the most powerful legislature in all of the colonies should meet in taverns or the parlors of private residences.

Andrew Hamilton and other members of the Pennsylvania assembly began buying land for the new government building in October 1730. Hamilton also got credit for many years for designing the building, but the credit belongs to Edmund Woolley, a British architect. Construction started in 1732, but it took 21 years to finish the project, mainly because money was not always available to pay for materials and labor. When construction was complete in 1753, the building was known as the Philadelphia State House.

Independence Hall
independence hall

The Liberty Bell

By November 1751, the Pennsylvania State House had a bell tower but no bell. The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered one from Whitechapel Foundry in London with instructions that it be inscribed with a Bible verse reading, 'Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof. ' It arrived in September 1752 and, in March 1753, the 2,000-pound bell was hauled up to the steeple.

Unfortunately, any excitement over the new bell was dashed when it cracked on the very first stroke. After attempts to recast the bell and even order a new one, which sounded no better than the renovated original, one bell was kept in the steeple and the other in the attic. Abolitionists gave the bell in the steeple the name Liberty Bell when they adopted it as a symbol of freedom. Nobody knows for sure why it cracked again, but it has not rung since a celebration for George Washington's birthday in 1846.

The Declaration of Independence

Independence Hall is considered the birthplace of American freedom because it is within its walls that the Second Continental Congress met in October 1775 and took the nation's first steps toward independence from Great Britain. Delegates from the 13 colonies wanted to avoid war with England, but it became apparent by June 1776 that it was not possible.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, and at the end of June, delegates gathered again in the State House to vote. When nine colonies voted in favor of independence on July 4, the United States of America was born. On July 8, Colonel John Nixon stood in front of the State House and read the declaration to the citizens of Philadelphia. Bells rang across the city to celebrate the beginning of freedom.

Becoming Independence Hall

The State House was the site of more than just the signing and reading of the Declaration of Independence. The first American flag was designed and unfurled there. The Articles of Confederation were drafted and ratified there in 1781, and the United States Constitution was adopted there in 1787.

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