Lesson Plan - Get It!
Where is Independence Hall located, and why does it have that unusual name?
You have likely come across this building — Independence Hall — as you have studied American history.
Tell your teacher or parent anything you already know about Independence Hall. In this lesson, you will learn more about this building and why it holds an important place in American history. As you complete this section, make a list of all the important parts of history that occurred at Independence Hall.
Independence Hall is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Construction on the building began in 1732. Originally, Independence Hall was built to serve as the Pennsylvania State House, the place where Pennsylvania’s government met and created laws.
Independence Hall’s bell tower was the original home of the Liberty Bell, that was used to signal meetings and to gather the townspeople together. During the Revolutionary War, the bell was removed from the tower just before the British captured the city of Philadelphia. Patriots feared the British would melt the metal down to use for ammunition. Today, the Liberty Bell remains on display near Independence Hall, and has become a symbol of freedom in the United States due to its inscription, which reads, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).
During the American Revolution, Philadelphia became the temporary capital city for the colonies. From 1775 to 1783, Pennsylvania’s government allowed the Second Continental Congress to use Independence Hall as their official meeting place, although they were forced to move to other locations when the British captured Philadelphia in 1776, and again in 1777.
While at Independence Hall, Congress debated and drafted the Declaration of Independence, formally declared independence from Great Britain, and made George Washington the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, which was the American army. During the Revolutionary War, Congress regularly met at Independence Hall to make decisions regarding the war. They also wrote the Articles of Confederation at Independence Hall, which is considered America’s first constitution, because it defined how the United States Government would operate, and created laws for the new nation.
After the Revolutionary War, in 1786, it was decided a new constitution was needed to replace the Articles of Confederation. The Articles contained many problems, such as a single branch of government and no common currency throughout the states. Many feared the Articles of Confederation would be unable to hold the United States together over a long period of time. Representatives from each state met at Independence Hall in 1787 for several months, debating and writing the new constitution. They wanted the meetings to be kept a secret to avoid outside influence and gossip from taking place as the new constitution was being written. So, they kept the shutters on all the windows closed, which proved to be rather uncomfortable during the hot Philadelphia summer. Remember, there was no air conditioning in 1787! In September 1787, the Constitutional Convention completed the constitution.
For all of the reasons you have read about, Independence Hall has inherited the nickname, “the birthplace of America.” Even after the founding of America, Independence Hall has continued to play a role in American history.
In 1865, Abraham Lincoln’s body was kept at Independence Hall for a few days. While there, more than 85,000 people gathered outside the building to watch his coffin pass. People were also allowed to view the body inside Independence Hall. It is estimated that 300,000 people viewed Lincoln’s body over the course of two days. Many stood in line for more than five hours to catch a glimpse of the famous president.
Share the list you have created with your teacher or parent. Use the information you have gathered to discuss the following questions:
- Why is Independence Hall called “The birthplace of America?”
- What do you think is the most significant event to take place at Independence Hall?
- What impact has Independence Hall had on American history?
- How might life in America be different if not for Independence Hall?
Today, Independence Hall is operated by the National Park Service. The building is open to visitors, and tours are given most days of the week.
Move on to the Got It? section to take your own private tour of Independence Hall.