Congress Hall

Home of the U.S. Congress from 1790-1800

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Photo by M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia
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Built as the Philadelphia County Courthouse, Congress Hall was home to the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, during the time when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the United States.

Like the democratic ideals it once served, Congress Hall is simple but powerful.

The nation’s fledgling legislature occupied the former courthouse, a two-story, brick, Georgian structure that characterized Congress’ roles.

Notable historic achievements made within Congress Hall include the establishment of the First Bank of the United States, the Federal Mint and the Department of the Navy, as well as the ratification of Jay’s Treaty with England.

The Experience

Both Washington and Adams were inaugurated in Congress Hall.

The House of Representatives on the first floor (Lower House) of Congress Hall remains in the same state as it was for John Adams’ inauguration in 1797 – spare and unadorned, with desks for 106 representatives from 16 states. Both Adams and Washington were inaugurated in Congress Hall.

The second floor (Upper House), where the U.S. Senate met, is more elaborate, with deep green walls and fabric.

Carpeting encompassing the American eagle encircled by the seals of the 13 original states dominates the room.

Larger-than-life portraits of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, gifts of the French government, hang in the adjacent committee rooms.

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