Federal Hall National Memorial | PARK AT A GLANCE

Federal Hall National Memorial

Federal Hall National Memorial


Federal Hall National Memorial in downtown New York City marks the location of where George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789. However, the building now on the site is not Federal Hall, which was torn down in 1812. The current building is a former U. S. Customs House that opened in 1842. It has served as the Washington Inaugural Gallery museum since 1939.

The original Federal Hall opened in 1703 as a city hall to house the British royal governor’s council and assembly. Once the United States had ousted the British from the continent at the conclusion of the American Revolution, New York City became the defacto capital of the United States, and its city hall the Capitol Building. Beginning in 1785, it served as the headquarters for the Confederation Congress at a time when the Articles of Confederation were still the governing document for the new nation. Once the current U. S. Constitution was ratified in June 1788, it was decided that New York City would remain the nation’s capital on a temporary basis. City Hall was then enlarged and remodeled in the Federal style by Pierre L’Enfant, the man who would go on to design Washington, D. C. It was at this time that the name Federal Hall was first used. Though it was the Capitol Building for less than five years, Federal Hall cemented its place in history when the first U. S. Congress drafted and approved the Bill of Rights while still operating from the building.

In the winter of 1790, the capital of the United States was moved to Philadelphia. Alexander Hamilton wanted the Federal government to assume the war debts of the states, most of which had been accumulated by the northern states. However, the southern states did not want to be forced to pay these debts. At the same time, they did not like the fact that the U. S. Capital was so far north in New York City. Thus, a political compromise was reached in which Hamilton’s financial plan would be adopted in exchange for the capital being moved to the Potomac River along the perceived political border of North and South at what would become Washington, D. C. Needing delegates from Pennsylvania to vote for the proposal, it was also agreed that the capital would be moved to Philadelphia while the Washington, D. C. site was being prepared—at the time it was only farmland and swamp. With all votes in place, the Residence Act—the legislation that would establish Washington, D. C.—as the new capital, was passed in July 1790. Later that year the capital was moved to Philadelphia, where it remained until 1800.

Once the capital moved, Federal Hall returned to being a city government building, then was torn down altogether in 1812 after a new City Hall building had been constructed. It wasn’t until 1842 that the current building was completed (construction started in 1834). Built in the Greek Revival style, it was first used as a U. S. Customs House, then a U. S. Sub-Treasury building from 1862 until 1920 when the Federal Reserve Bank replaced the sub-treasury system. It was also used as an FBI building and a passport office.

In 1939, the building became a museum dedicated to Washington’s inauguration, opening as the Federal Hall Memorial National Historic Site, though this was not operated by the National Park Service. It wasn’t until 1955 that it became part of the National Park system under the name Federal Hall National Memorial. Today the building continues to serve as a museum to Washington’s inauguration, though exhibits on other topics can be found as well. Also inside is a Visitor Center where you can get information on all the National Park properties in the New York City area.


Federal Hall National Memorial is located in the former U. S. Customs House at 29 Wall Street. It is next to the New York Stock Exchange building. Do not attempt to drive to the site. Use public transportation.

All visitor areas are accessible to those in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues. A ramp into the building is located on the rear entrance at 15 Pine Street, and elevators run between the upper and lower floors.


Federal Hall National Memorial is open year-round on Mondays through Fridays from 9 AM to 5 PM. It is closed on weekends and on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Times can always changes, so before making travel plans be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the park.


There are no fees associated with a visit to Federal Hall.


A thorough visit to Federal Hall National Memorial takes about two hours, though a half hour or less will serve most visitors. This is a museum experience, so the time spent at the site depends on your interest in history.

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Last updated on May 28, 2020
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