5. Pieces of Federal Hall, Where Washington was Inaugurated, Are Housed in the Historical Society
The Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street, a former custom house, marks the site where the country’s first capitol building once stood. The original structure built on the site in 1703 was New York’s City Hall. After America won the Revolution and New York City became the first capital of the new country, City Hall was turned into the nation’s first Federal Hall. In 1789, in front of a crowd of onlookers, atop the balcony of Federal Hall, George Washington took the oath of office.
When the City Hall was to be repurposed as the nation’s capital, the city hired French architect Pierre-Charles L’Enfant to renovate it and give it a more stately feel. His design incorporated neoclassical symbols and the ornate railing you see pictured above. The railing’s design contains thirteen arrows, each representing one of the thirteen original states. When Federal Hall was demolished in 1812, after the federal capital moved to Philadelphia, many of its architectural remnants were brought to the Historical Society. This railing actually made a stop first at the Administrative Building at Bellevue Hospital where it was used on a portico. It was removed from the hospital in 1883 and presented to the New-York Historical Society the following year. In addition to the railing, the Historical Society also houses much of the furniture left behind when the capital moved south. Pieces of the original structure, including a piece of stone from the balcony on which Washington stood, can also be found inside the Federal Hall National Memorial.