Federal Hall, built in 1700 on Wall Street in New York City's Financial District as the predecessor to New York City Hall, later served as the first capitol building of the United States of America under the Constitution, and was the site of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States. It was also where the United States Bill of Rights was introduced in the First Congress. The building was demolished in 1812.
Later, in 1842, the Federal Hall National Memorial was built as the United States Custom House, on the site of the old Federal Hall, and later served as a sub-Treasury building. It is now operated by the National Park Service as a national memorial commemorating the historic events that occurred there.
The original structure on the site was built as New York's City Hall in 1700. In 1735, John Peter Zenger, an American newspaper publisher, was arrested for committing libel against the British royal governor and was imprisoned and tried there. His acquittal on the grounds that the material he had printed was true established the freedom of the press as it was later defined in the Bill of Rights.
In October 1765, delegates from nine of the 13 colonies met as the Stamp Act Congress in response to the levying of the Stamp Act by the P of Great Britain. Drawn together for the first time in organized opposition to British policy, the attendees drafted a message to King George III, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, claiming entitlement to the same rights as the residents of Britain and protesting the colonies' 'taxation without representation'.
After the American Revolution, the City Hall served as the meeting place for the Congress of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, from 1785 until 1789. Acts adopted here included the Northwest Ordinance, which set up what would later become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, but more fundamentally prohibited slavery in these future states.
Archibald Robertson’s View up Wall Street with City Hall (Federal Hall) and Trinity Church, New York City, from around 1798
In 1788 the building was remodeled and enlarged under the direction of Pierre Charles L'Enfant, who was later selected by President George Washington to design the capital city on the Potomac River. This was the first example of Federal Style architecture in the United States. It was renamed Federal Hall when it became the first Capitol of the United States under the Constitution in 1789. The 1st United States Congress met there on March 4, 1789, to establish the new federal government, and the first thing they did was count the votes that elected George Washington as the first President of the United States. He was inaugurated on the balcony of the building on April 30, 1789.
Many of the most important legislative actions in the United States occurred with the 1st Congress at Federal Hall. Foremost was the proposal and initial ratification of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution; twelve amendments to the Constitution were initially drafted (ten were later adopted), and on September 25, 1789, the United States Bill of Rights was proposed in Federal Hall, establishing the freedoms claimed by the Stamp Act Congress on the same site 24 years earlier. Also, the Judiciary Act of 1789 was enacted in the building which set up the United States federal court system which is still in use today.