|photograph from the collection of the New York Public Library|
Perhaps no single site in the United States has seen so many formative events in early American history as that where Federal Hall National Memorial now sits. In 1699 construction began on the third of New York's City Halls, completed the following year. Here the beginning of America's venerated freedom of the press took root when, in 1735, John Peter Zengel was tried and acquited of libel against the Crown. And it was here in 1765 that the Stamp Act Congress met, starting the movement against taxation without representation. It became the first Capitol Building after the Revolution, saw the first meeting of the United States Congress, and it was here that President George Washington was inaugurated.
Although the building, now called Federal Hall, had been richly refurbished by Pierre Charles L'Enfant, designer of Washington DC, it was abandoned when the Government moved to Philadelphia in 1790. In 1812 it was razed and the polished marble mantles, crimson draperies and other remnants sold for $425 in scrap.
|the former Federal Hall - NYPL Collection|
|from the collection of the New York Public Library|
Before the end of the century it was also being used as The New York Sub-Treasury Building with gold and silver stored below street level in vaults. Here the Independent Treasury System was initiated in 1862 and in 1913 the Federal Reserve System was born. In 1907 the new US Customs House at the foot of Broadway, covering three city blocks, was completed and the Customs business left the Wall Street structure.