When it comes time to travel to the United States, the city of Philadelphia is often not the first destination that comes first to mind. We often opt for New York, Chicago or Washington. Or even San Francisco, Las Vegas or Miami. But Philadelphia? We may stop there if we travel along the East Coast. But I think we too often neglect this big city, which has so much to offer.
As you can guess it, I just came back from a few days in the City of Brotherly Love (a nickname that comes from the meaning of Philadelphia in Greek). And no, I will not talk to you about the Rocky Steps. I rather intend to write a little on Philadelphia’s other flagship attraction: Independence Hall. After all, that’s where the United States were born.
American history buffs know it: Independence Hall is where the American Declaration of Independence was signed and then, a few years later, the Constitution. Located in the heart of the historic district of Philadelphia, the red brick building is an emblem for many Americans, a symbol of perseverance, willpower and freedom.
Built between 1732 and 1756, the building served as the seat of the Pennsylvania Assembly. Inside it was the state’s supreme court and the assembly hall of the assembly. In 1775, during the American revolution, the thirteen American colonies (which had then decided to reject the monarchical power of the British) met at the Pennsylvania State House and decided to place George Washington at the head of the American continental army. While George Washington was fighting with his soldiers at the front against the British, a committee meeting in Philadelphia began to draft a document proclaiming the independence of the thirteen states of America, a document justifying the reasons for rejecting the British monarchy. The Declaration of Independence was finally signed by congressmen on July 4, 1976 at the Pennsylvania State House. The United States had just been born.
But the history of Independence Hall does not stop there. Independence may have been proclaimed, but the country as such was struggling to take shape. The revolution was over, but there was still some chaos in the new nation. There were no common laws between states, no central government or common monetary system. It was therefore decided that each state would send delegates to the Pennsylvania State House to try to find a way to build a strong state system. After several discussions, a draft of a brand-new constitution was presented. In 1787, this constitution was adopted, and this time was born the American government.
The historical significance of Independence Hall has been recognized by UNESCO who added the site to its world heritage list. It is possible to visit the building free of charge (tickets must be booked in advance of the visit though). What strikes the most is probably the fact that despite an elegant exterior appearance, the interior is rather modest. The assembly hall has been furnished to appear as it was at the time. It is around these tables that sat George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson… This is where was born what is today one of the most powerful countries in the world… It’s hard not to be impress!