Chestnut St. btwn. 5th and 6th Sts.
215/965-2305 or 877/444-6777
HOURS: Daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; tours start every 15–30 minutes, last tour at 4:30 p.m.
COST: Free, but reserve a ticket at Independence Visitor Center  the day of your visit Mar.–Dec., or reserve in advance for a fee of $1.50 per ticket online or by phone
Independence Hall is the centerpiece of Independence National Historical Park . It sits on leafy Independence Square and is the southern boundary of Independence Mall, home to the Liberty Bell  and Constitution Center. Sensing a pattern?
If you slept through your grade school history class, this is where the United States’ independence from England became official. Within these walls, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated, drafted, and signed, and our nation was formed.
Originally the State House, the classic Georgian structure was designed by Andrew Hamilton and Edmund Wooley and built 1732–1756. Of the many restorations it has seen, the most notable were those by Greek revival architect John Havilland in 1830 and by the National Park Service in 1950; the latter greatly restored the building to its late 18th-century appearance. The furniture is mostly reproduction, since much of the original furniture was burnt during the winter of 1777–1778 when Philadelphia  was briefly occupied by the British Army.
Independence Hall was the meeting place for the Second Continental Congress from 1775 to 1783, except during the brief British occupation. The most important decisions were made in the 1st-floor Assembly Room, home to George Washington’s famous “Rising Sun” chair. This is where he was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army (1775), the Declaration of Independence was adopted (July 4, 1776), the design of the American flag was agreed upon (1777), the Articles of Confederation were adopted (1781), and the U.S. Constitution was drafted (1787).
Original copies of the Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution are on display in the Great Essentials Exhibit in the West Wing of Independence Hall. You can also see the Syng silver inkstand that was used to sign the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Independence Hall is one of a trio of matching Georgian buildings that housed the three branches of early government, and it makes sense to visit all of them together. Facing Independence Hall on Chestnut Street, the building on the corner of Chestnut and 5th Streets is Old City Hall. Built in 1790 by master carpenter David Evans, it was home to the United States Supreme Court 1791–1800. Once the capital moved to D.C., it became Philadelphia’s City Hall until 1870.
On the corner of Chestnut and 6th Streets is Congress Hall, where the two branches of Congress met (1790–1800). The House of Representatives was on the 1st floor and the Senate on the 2nd floor. Built in 1787, Congress Hall was the site of the inaugurations of Adams and of Washington for his second term. It is also where the Bill of Rights was ratified.
On the 2nd floor, notice the 19th-century fresco of an eagle holding an olive branch signifying peace, and a plaster medallion on the ceiling with an oval sunburst with 13 stars, designed to honor the 13 original states. The carpet features 13 state shields and cornucopias wishing for abundance in the new land. It’s a reproduction of the original carpet made in the 1790s by William Sprague. Founder of the first woven carpet mill in Philadelphia, Sprague is credited with bringing the carpet industry to the United States.