1National Constitution Center
Your adventure begins - the only museum of its kind in the world dedicated to the U.S. Constitution
Welcome to The Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia the All-American Tour of America's birthplace. It all started back in 1682 when Philadelphia was founded by William Penn. At that time, Philadelphia was under British rule, and Philadelphia was the largest city in the Colonies. The Constitutional tells the story of the brave men and women who were responsible for creating America. In 1776, The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, and in 1787, the Constitution of the United States was signed in Philadelphia. Philadelphia served as the Capital for the United States from 1790 until 1800. Today, Philadelphia is the 5th largest city in the United States, and it is the second largest city on the East Coast with a metropolitan area population of approximately 5.9 million people.
2The President’s House Site
Predecessor to the White House
This open-air President’s House commemorates the predecessor the White House where President George Washington and President John Adams lived while they were in office, while Philadelphia was the Capital City of the United States from 1790-1800. The President’s House site also provides a lesson pertaining to a troubling time in American history with slavery. There are exhibits about the early American Presidency, the free African community in Philadelphia and the enslaved Africans who lived there. The site and exhibit, entitled “President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation” opened in December 2010.
Where Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence
Declaration House, or Graff House as it is also referred to, is on the site where Thomas Jefferson lived when he wrote The Declaration of Independence, appealing to the natural principles of justice and equality.
The Founding Fathers’ “Walk of Fame”
Signers’ Walk pays tribute to the Founding Fathers who were members of the Second Continental Congress who risked their lives, reputations and fortunes by signing The Declaration of Independence. Each plaque along Signers’ Walk bears the Signers’ likeness, signature, occupation and Colony. The plaques are organized by colony, from south to north, with the exception of Pennsylvania, which is at the very end at 6th and Chestnut. Highlights include the plaques of Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
5The Liberty Bell
The quintessential icon of American Freedom
As the official bell of the Pennsylvania State House, which is today called Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell rang many times for public announcements. It may have rung on July 8, 1776 to announce the first public reading of The Declaration of Independence. The Liberty Bell, which weighs about 2,000 pounds, was silenced by a crack in 1846. Its inscription reads: “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” - Leviticus XXV, v.10, The Bible.
Independence Hall, the birthplace of America, was built in 1732 as the Pennsylvania State House. Within this hallowed hall, the Second Continental Congress met in May 1775, and The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. Independence Hall is also where the Constitutional Convention met to draft, debate and then sign The United States Constitution on September 17, 1787.
The former U.S. Capitol and site of two Presidential Inaugurations
Constructed between 1787 and 1789 as the Philadelphia County Court House, Congress Hall served as the United States Capitol, the meeting place of the United States Congress, from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia was the Capital of the United States. The House of Representatives met on the main floor, while the Senate assembled upstairs. From its earliest days the Senate thus came to be referred to as the “upper chamber.” Among the historic events that took place here were the inaugurations of President George Washington (his second) and President John Adams.
8Old City Hall
The former home to the U.S. Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court met here from 1791 until 1800 when the Capital of the United States was moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. Early members of the Supreme Court included: John Jay, Chief Justice, 1789 to 1795; Oliver Ellsworth, Chief Justice, 1796 to 1800; and John Marshall, Associate Justice who later became Chief Justice, 1801 to 1835.
Dedicated to those who risked their lives for the cause of American freedom
Take note of the statue called The Signer. Inspired by George Clymer, Philadelphia merchant, statesman and signer of both The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States, The Signer commemorates the spirit of all those who devoted their lives to the cause of American freedom.
Oldest scholarly society in the U.S.
The American Philosophical Society was founded in 1743 as a home for thinkers about nature, machines, industry and governance. It was founded through the outgrowth of an idea fostered by Benjamin Franklin, and it is the oldest learned society in the United States. Today, the Society continues as an eminent scholarly organization of world-wide reputation, renowned for its excellence in scholarly research and publications, its library, its exhibitions and its international roster of elected members who make up a veritable “Who’s Who” of outstanding individuals in the arts, humanities and the sciences. The Museum in Philosophical Hall presents exhibitions and programs based on the Society’s rich collection of art and artifacts. The museum is free and open to the public.
The nation’s first public library and the former Library of Congress
The Library Company of Philadelphia, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731, was housed on the site of Library Hall from 1790 to 1880; the Library Company served as the Library of Congress from 1774 to 1800. In the 1880s, the Library Company moved to 1314 Locust Street, and the original Library Hall was then demolished. In the 1950s, a reproduction of Library Hall was constructed on its original site. Today, Library Hall houses some of the American Philosophical Society’s collections, and the Library Company still functions as a prominent research library on Locust Street.
12Second Bank of the United States
One of the most influential financial institutions in the world, now a portrait gallery
Completed in 1824, the Second Bank of the United States is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture, modeled on the Parthenon in Greece. The Second Bank was designed by William Strickland who was known as the “city architect” because he created a large number of Philadelphia’s public buildings. The Second Bank was incorporated in 1816, and it was one of the most influential financial institutions in the world until 1832. Today, the building houses a collection of late 18th and early 19th Century portraits.
The birthplace of the American Identity
Carpenters’ Hall was built in 1770. The First Continental Congress met at Carpenters’ Hall in September 1774 to draw up a Declaration of Rights and Grievances and an appeal to King George III. This was in response to the Colonies’ outrage towards the British Parliament over punishing Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party. During the Revolutionary War, Carpenters’ Hall served as a hospital and an arsenal for American forces. It was here at Carpenters’ Hall during the First Continental Congress that Patrick Henry stated, “The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian but an American.”
14New Hall Military Museum
Interpreting the role of the military in early U.S. history
The New Hall Military Museum is devoted to interpreting the role of the military in early American history. This building is a reconstruction of the one built by the Carpenters’ Company in 1791, and it originally housed the office of the first Secretary of War, Henry Knox, and his staff. The building currently houses exhibits highlighting the origins of the United States Army, Marine Corps and Navy with displays featuring weapons, uniforms, battle flags and more.
15The First Bank of the United States
Sparked the first great Constitutional debate
The First Bank of the United States was chartered by Congress and President Washington in 1791 under the direction of the Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Architecturally, the First Bank of the United States building won wide acclaim upon its completion in 1797, and it is believed to be one of the first examples of Classical monumental design. The constitutionality of the First Bank of the United States sparked the first great debate between “strict constructionalists” and “loose constructionalists” regarding the interpretation of The United States Constitution.
16Franklin Court & B. Free Franklin Post Office
Ben Franklin’s home and the only Colonial-themed Post Office
Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers, was a very accomplished author, diplomat, inventor, philanthropist, political pundit, printer, statesman and scientist during his 84-year life. Franklin’s house once stood in Franklin Court, however it was razed in 1812. Today, the Robert Venturi-designed “Ghost House” stands depicting the frame of Franklin’s home. Below Franklin Court is the newly redesigned Benjamin Franklin Museum. B. Free Franklin Post Office & Museum is the only Colonial-themed post office operated by the United States Postal Service. It is a living portrayal of a bygone Colonial lifestyle, and it is the only active post office in the United States that does not fly the American flag (because there was not yet one in 1775 when Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster General). The postmark “B. Free Franklin” is still used to cancel stamps. The museum on the second floor features displays of postal history and memorabilia.
An active parish since 1695, often called the “Nation’s Church”
Often called the “Nation’s Church,” this Episcopalian church has been an active parish since 1695, and it is where Benjamin Franklin, Absalom Jones, Robert Morris, Betsy Ross, Benjamin Rush and George Washington worshipped. It was the first parish of the Church of England (Anglican) in Pennsylvania. It is also the church where the American Episcopal Church was born. The steeple, financed by a lottery organized by Franklin, was the tallest structure in the Colonies for 83 years.
18Betsy Ross House
Where Betsy Ross sewed the first Stars and Stripes
The Betsy Ross House, a row home built in 1740, has been restored to about the year 1777, and it commemorates Betsy Ross’ legend and history. In 1777, Ross was commissioned by George Washington to create the first American Flag. Although no official records exist to prove the story of Ross creating the legendary “Stars and Stripes,” the descendants of Ross have passed her story down from generation to generation, which detailed Ross’ role as a national matriarch and the feminine face of the American Revolution.
19Arch Street Friends Meeting House
Home to the Society of Friends
Built in 1804 on land that William Penn gave to the Quakers in 1693, the Arch Street Friends Meeting House is the oldest Friends Meeting House still in use in Philadelphia, and it is the largest in the world. The Society of Friends grew out of the teachings of George Fox in 17th Century England. Penn, a disciple of Fox, founded Philadelphia as a haven for his persecuted co-religionists. Penn’s “Holy Experiment” was to build a society according to Quaker ideals: the absolute right of conscience, the equality of man and nonviolence.
20Christ Church Burial Ground
The final resting place of Benjamin Franklin
Christ Church Burial Ground is one of America’s most interesting graveyards from the Colonial and Revolutionary Eras; the burial ground has 1,400 markers on two acres. The graveyard is the final resting place for some of America’s most prominent leaders including Benjamin Franklin and four other signers of The Declaration of Independence.
21National Constitution Center
Where you can exercise your right to explore the Constitution of the United States
The National Constitution Center, located on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, is the first museum in the world devoted to dramatically telling the story of The United States Constitution from Revolutionary times to the present through more than 100 interactive and multimedia exhibits, film, photographs, text, sculpture and artifacts. Be sure to walk through Signers’ Hall with its life-size statues including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Watch Freedom Rising which brings to life the historical context of The Constitution and its impact on our lives today. Take the Presidential Oath-of-Office and vote for your favorite President of all-time.