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Independence National Historical Park

The birthplace of American democracy

An aerial view of Independence Mall with Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center in the foreground. Credit: courtesy Independence National Historical Park

Description

Known as the birthplace of American democracy, Historic Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park (INHP) is located on the site of many of the seminal events that carried the nation through its founding as a global leader of democratic ideals.

INHP welcomes more than 3.5 million visitors every year. Many of these visitors line up to see what is the park’s most visited and most famous attraction, the Liberty Bell.

The Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, Congress Hall, the New Hall Military Museum, Franklin Court, the Bishop White House and the Graff House are just some of the buildings that make up Independence National Historical Park — all of which are free.

The Liberty Bell & Independence Hall:

Independence Hall – While historical attractions abound in Philly, Independence Hall has particular significance to the development of the nation. In this building in 1776, the Founding Fathers came together to sign the Declaration of Independence. Eleven years later, representatives from a dozen states met here to lay the framework for the U.S. Constitution. Today, the building is the centerpiece of Independence National Historical Park, and guided tours are available to visitors year-round. Guests should arrive 15 minutes early to allow time for the security line. 520 Chestnut Street

Liberty Bell – Moved to its current location across from Independence Hall in 2003, the bell that was later named the Liberty Bell was originally cast in Great Britain and recast in 1753 in Philadelphia to adorn the State House. Used to call the Pennsylvania Assembly to meetings, it was soon adopted by abolitionists, suffragists, Civil Rights advocates, Native Americans, immigrants, war protestors and others as their symbol. The 44-pound clapper caused the Bell’s crack on its first use, and though it has been recast twice, the imperfection remains today. Visitors can tour the Liberty Bell Center year-round. 526 Market Street

Tickets

Tickets are not required to visit the Liberty Bell. However, tickets are necessary to tour Independence Hall from March 1 to December 31. These free, timed tickets can be picked up at the Independence Visitor Center the day of your trip. You may also reserve tickets in advance online or by calling (800) 967-2283 (from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) for a fee of $1.50.

Reserve Independence Hall Tickets

The Independence Visitor Center

The Independence Visitor Center is located at One North Independence Mall West, at the intersection of 6th & Market Streets (across from the Liberty Bell Center). It should be your first stop on your visit to Independence National Historical Park. For more information, call (800) 537-7676 or visit www.phlvisitorcenter.com.

Visit Independence Visitor Center Website

The History of Independence National Historical Park

The site of INHP has not remained static in the nearly two-and-a-half centuries since the Declaration of Independence was adopted there on July 4, 1776. Instead, it has grown and progressed with the times, emerging in the early 21st century as a National Historical Park, providing a living model of history for the generations who come to experience it.

“The stories related to the founding of the United States of America in Philadelphia are multiple and are still being discovered and reanalyzed. The opportunity to understand our history with its complexities and contradictions is valuable for the millions of people who come to find a connection with this place,” said Cynthia MacLeod, superintendent, INHP.

The Park’s Modern Transformation:

In between the two bicentennials, INHP officials determined it was time, once again, to modernize Independence Mall and devised a 10-year General Management Plan, which they implemented in 1998. As a result of the design plan, more than $300 million worth of improvements have come to the Mall in the form of major landscaping work and the addition of several impressive facilities.

The first significant change came in 2001 with the opening of the Independence Visitor Center, a user-friendly information center designed to provide an informative gateway to the Mall, the city and region. In October 2003, the Liberty Bell was very carefully walked across the Mall to its new home at the interactive Liberty Bell Center, a structure that showcases the Bell against the backdrop of Independence Hall and helps place the Bell in its historic and symbolic context. That year also saw the opening of the $140 million National Constitution Center, a state-of-the-art museum devoted to the study of the U.S. Constitution. In subsequent years, Historic Philadelphia, Inc. introduced Once Upon A Nation, featuring more than dozen storytelling benches throughout historic district; began conducting themed bus and walking tours through the area; and reopened historic Franklin Square as a vibrant park that boasts, among other things, an old-fashioned carousel and a miniature golf course. And in 2009, The African American Museum in Philadelphia reopened, debuting a new core exhibit Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776-1876.

2010 marked another big year for Independence Mall with three significant openings. In September, Historic Philadelphia, Inc. opened the Historic Philadelphia Center as its central ticketing location and debuted Liberty 360, a 3-D, 360-degree show inside the center’s PECO Theater. November brought the opening of the new $150 million National Museum of American Jewish History, featuring permanent and changing exhibitions, rare artifacts and interactive displays that mark the trials and triumphs of American Jews through every phase of the country’s history. And perhaps the most anticipated opening came at year’s end with the debut of The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation, which tells the story of Presidents George Washington and John Adams and nine enslaved Africans held by Washington in the first executive mansion.

The Early Days:

The four blocks between Walnut and Arch Streets and 5th and 6th Streets, now known as Independence Mall, have served as a central gathering place for citizens since the mid-18th century. But unlike today’s governmental compounds, these leaders also lived and socialized in the area, making it one of the city’s first focal points for residential and commercial development. For instance, throughout parts of the 18th century, while the Articles of Confederation (1781), the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the U.S. Constitution (1787) were being created inside Independence Hall, Presidents George Washington and John Adams lived at 190 High Street, now the 500 block of Market Street. Just two blocks north, where the National Constitution Center now stands, the streets bustled with a community of vendors, artisans, shopkeepers and free black families. It was in this neighborhood that James Oronoko Dexter held the first organizational meeting for the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas at his home in 1792. The first Free Quaker Meeting House was also built here in 1784 as a place of worship for Quakers who had been “read out” of the religion, many for disregarding its pacifist obligations and taking up arms in the Revolution.

But much of this activity would not have taken place on Independence Mall were it not for the construction of the State House of the Province of Pennsylvania (1732-1756), now known as Independence Hall. Throughout its life as an operating government building, Independence Hall hosted historical milestones such as meetings of the Second Continental Congress from 1775 until 1783 (with the exception of 1777-1778 when Philadelphia was occupied by British forces); the appointment of George Washington as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1775; and the agreement over the design of the American flag in 1777. Thanks to Philadelphia’s growing reputation, the city served as the first capital of the young country from 1790 until 1800.

Independence Lives On:

As early as 1819, citizens of Philadelphia started focusing on the preservation of Independence Hall for posterity. By the mid-20th century, three separate entities were created to protect and dignify the Hall and its environs. First, the local Independence Hall Association was founded, followed later by the designation in 1948 of the three blocks north of Independence Hall as INHP, a unit of the National Park Service. In 1946, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Martin approved $3 million for the acquisition and demolition of any structures on the Mall that detracted from its historic legacy. Thanks in part to the creation of the national park, a partnership of city, state and federal officials got that process underway in 1950, and over the next 17 years, Independence Mall took shape in the form it would keep until the close of the century. This Mall project was considered part of a larger redevelopment plan for Philadelphia.

Party In The U.S.A.:

In 1976, Philadelphia celebrated the Bicentennial in grand fashion and marked the event with the opening of two cultural museums near the Mall: The African American Museum in Philadelphia and the National Museum of American Jewish History. The Constitution’s 200th birthday 11 years later presented another cause for celebration. This year also marked the beginning of a campaign to establish a memorial honoring the Constitution that would be built with rocks collected from every state in the Union. Although the “Rocks Across America” initiative lost momentum the following year, its short life helped inspire the idea for the National Constitution Center.

Details

1 North Independence Mall West Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 965-2305
Website

In the neighborhood

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