Even with the city preparing to host their huge annual fireworks display and concert, Independence Hall is still regal. This feel and structure and clock take you right back to what it must have been like almost 250 year ago when all the magic happened. If you close your eyes, you can almost transport yourself in time. Of course, the clip-clop of the horses drawing their carriages nearby and the smells associated with said horses make it a lot easier.
We had reserved our free tickets ahead of time and were excited to see the inside of the hall, and hear more about the history of this place, not just piece it together from what we could remember from 8th grade social studies.
We got there a little before our tour time which gave me a little time to do one of my favorite things: cuddle with my girl and get all sentimental about her not only being ours forever, but being an American forever. Being free forever. Being loved and cared for forever.
This was the entrance to get into the security area that you had to go through before exiting back out into the courtyard behind the Hall where the tour began. The doorways were true to size for the time it that the building was constructed. Architecturally on point, but you realize quickly why the laws have changed to accommodate those with wheelchairs.
Thankfully the inside, although just as regal and authentic as the outside, had spaces that made getting around a lot easier. The guard told us that the historical preservationists had stripped down 200 years of paint on the walls to try to determine what the original color was. The colors you see on the walls in these pictures are the closest that they could come to what the inside of the hall would have looked like when they wrote the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago to the day when we toured.
It was powerful to stand in the room where justice was not only dispensed but the American court system was designed, structured, and ordered into the beginning phases of what we know it to be today. You can see the three chairs where the judges would have sat, a table where the lawyers would have sat, the box where the jury would have been seated, and even (in the right foreground of the picture) the place where the prisoner would have been kept while the trial was going on.
This is the very room where the founders of our country wrote the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. (That’s right – it was signed written on July 2 but signed on July 4. You’re welcome for when that question comes up on Jeopardy and you impress your friends by knowing the right answer.) It’s really awe-inspiring to be in the exact place where our country was formed.
While most of the furniture in the room is re-created to look like what would have been in use back then, there was one chair that has been in that room for 241 years. Check out the chair behind the table in the picture below. This is the very chair that George Washington sat in to oversee the Continental Congress as they wrote that incredible document. We know it was because Benjamin Franklin is documented as having said of that very chair, “I have often looked at that [sun design on top of the chair] behind the President without being able to tell if it was rising or setting. But now I know that it is a rising sun.” He spoke eloquently of the hope that had come alive, the new day that was dawning, as the founding ideals of our country were literally being born in that very room.
This is a close up of the part of the chair that Franklin was talking about. A replica is kept at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
As we were listening to the tour guide (with the grey beard in the picture below) explain the importance of all that was going on in that room 241 years ago, I was moved. It was powerful to be in the presence of history. And then I noticed something. I was standing directly behind two women wearing hajibs, traditional headcoverings usually associated with those who practice the Muslim religion, and I was struck in a whole other way by the power of the moment.
Our founding fathers had remarkable foresight. They dared to write a document that was light years ahead of its time. It’s a document that gave everyone – every person – freedom in this great land. No matter what religion you practice, no matter where you come from, no matter what you believe – in America you are free. Free to be everything that you want to be. Free to be who you are.
We are all still free today. That includes these women, my immigrant daughter, and me. I remain incredibly grateful for that gift.
For more on what to do in Philadelphia, read about our visit to the Liberty Bell.