Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of our national parks. National Parks in New York City? Yes! There are 11 parks with a total of 23 different sites you can visit in all five boroughs and parts of New Jersey.
For America's first 17 months, New York City was the nation's capital. When the founding fathers drafted the Constitution, they decided that New York's colonial City Hall would serve as the new government's capitol building. It was remodeled, enlarged, and renamed Federal Hall. Once Congress met, the first order of business was to count the votes that unanimously elected George Washington as the first US president.
In Federal Hall, George Washington took the oath of office, the first Supreme Court and Executive Branch offices were located, and the Bill of Rights was adopted. Once Congress moved the US capital to its temporary second home in Philadelphia, Federal Hall again served as the New York City Hall until 1811. Then the government offices relocated, Federal Hall closed its doors, and the building was torn down the following year.
In 1842, the brand-new Customs House was built on the site of the old Capitol, where merchants from all over the world came to pay their taxes on imports. In 1862, the building became the US Sub-Treasury. Millions of dollars in gold and silver were once kept in the basement vaults. Now, the building serves as a museum and memorial to our first president and the beginnings of the United States of America.
Check out the Washington Inaugural Gallery to learn about the first inauguration, discover its lasting traditions, and see artifacts and models of both City Hall and Federal Hall.
Visit the 'Gateway to America: Discover New York Harbor Visitor Information Center' for info about attractions in New York City. You can also learn about fun educational programs, natural and cultural resources, and stewardship opportunities offered by the many destinations of the National Parks of New York Harbor.
Federal Hall also offers events throughout the year from reenactments to special programs and everything in between.
You can't miss the heroic statue of George Washington in front of Federal Hall, but don't forget to look up! The Customs Building's Greco-Roman architecture has a special meaning. The Doric columns of the exterior resemble those of the Parthenon and pay homage to the democracy of the Greeks; the domed ceiling inside the main hall reflects the Pantheon and honors the ancient Romans' ideal form of government, a republic, where supreme power lies in the body of citizens who vote for their representatives.
Federal Hall is open year-round. Hours of operation are 9 to 5 Monday through Friday during spring, autumn and winter (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). Summer hours are 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday.
Cover photo from Wikimedia Commons by Marcel René Kalt alias Groovio