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The Most Historic Square Mile in the United States

Follow in the Footsteps of the Founding Fathers at Independence Hall

Philadelphia is a city of firsts. Home to, among other things, the United States’ first daily newspaper, hospital, and zoo, the city has been at the forefront of innovations in politics, science, and culture since its earliest days. At Independence National Historical Park, which encompasses twenty-five historically-significant sites scattered throughout Philadelphia, visitors can explore the full range of the city’s fascinating history.

“This is the birthplace of the United States,” explains Park Ranger Adam Duncan. “Visitors who come here want to learn about our nation’s history. Independence Hall is just one of twenty-five sites that we operate. Many are related to the American Revolution, others are significant for women’s suffrage or the history of civil rights—people are often surprised by how many of the buildings still stand.”

Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are the most iconic historic sites maintained by the Parks Service. Most famous as the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the U.S. Constitution in 1789, Independence Hall has been restored to its eighteenth-century appearance. “Sometimes people come here expecting to see a standard museum thrown together,” Duncan says. “But the building has been re-created and is presented as if you’re walking into the building in the eighteenth-century.”

As Duncan points out, such a feat was a long and complicated process. “We re-created the scene with eighteenth-century furniture and artifacts, which was challenging because there aren’t necessarily a lot of references available,” he explains. “It’s a little bit of a hodgepodge since it was created to reflect two time periods—both 1776 and 1789. George Washington’s famous chair, for example, would not have been there when John Hancock presided over the Continental Congress. But we have a fantastic collection.” The collection contains approximately 2.2 million objects and features such artifacts as Thomas Jefferson’s walking stick and iconic historical portraits.

Today, Independence Hall is accessible only through a ranger-led tour, which is free but requires a timed admission ticket from March through December. Entry to the nearby Liberty Bell does not require a ticket and is first-come, first-served. “People have to visit the Liberty Bell and the Hall together,” Duncan says.

Most Americans are aware of the historical significance of Independence Hall, but even the most informed history buffs will learn something new after visiting. “People are surprised to learn that the Declaration wasn’t signed on the Fourth,” he explains. “It wasn’t the grand scene that you see in paintings. It was a struggle for independence, not something that happened overnight and at the time of the Declaration, wasn’t a politically-accepted thing completely throughout the colonies. Independence was fought for and recognized on the battlefield—I think that people are surprised by just how long that took.”

-- By Ettractions Digital Content Editor EMILY JARMOLOWICZ

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