Independence Hall's façade preserves most of its 18th-century look. The north facade has marble keystones above each window, a carved wooden cornice, and a wooden railing that spans the roof between the chimneys. The south facade is less elaborate but still quite decorative.
Both facades are composed of Doric columns with Ionic capitals. The interior includes an oak floor covered with carpets from Turkey and India.
Independence Hall was built as a house. It has two floors, three bays wide, and seven bays deep. The walls are 2 feet thick everywhere except for a narrow band around the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling. This is only 1 foot thick to allow for light and air circulation between the rooms upstairs and downstairs. The front door opens into a small vestibule. To your left as you enter the building is a staircase leading to the second floor. Straight ahead is an open area with more stairs going up and down. This is called the hall because that's exactly what it is used for holding meetings or entertaining guests.
The room on the ground floor is called the assembly room because that's exactly what it was used for back in the days when it was built. Today it would be called a living room because that's what it is used for now.
The design calls for a 105-foot main block, two covered arcades, and two 50-foot wing structures. The architecture of Independence Hall, both inside and out, offers a unique glimpse into the past. Victorian architects often included decorative elements in their buildings, such as carved woodwork or ornate details. Because there was no electric power available to them at this time, they had to create all sorts of ingenious ways to get electricity to various parts of their buildings. In the case of Independence Hall, they used metal rods that passed through wall and floor openings to supply light from an external source to rooms away from the main road.
Inside the building, visitors will see three large chambers connected by two sets of double doors. The first chamber is about 30 feet long and 20 feet wide. It serves as the entrance lobby to the building and includes a small stairway leading up to a balcony where visitors can get a view of the Philadelphia City Hall below. To the right of the entrance is a small room called the Secretary's Office where officers of the Continental Congress met to discuss business and receive news from across the continent. Directly opposite the entrance is another small room called the President's Room where members of the Congress met to debate policy and vote on important issues before them. Straight ahead from the entrance is a large room called the House Chamber where members of the Congress held public meetings and made law.
Andrew Hamilton, the Speaker of the Assembly, led the building of the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall. Edmund Woolley, a master builder, designed the structure. The two men also worked together on the design of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
People can visit Independence Hall daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Guided tours are available throughout the day; an audio guide is also available for download through the website. Free parking is available across the street at the Independence Mall Garage. A one-time fee of $10 per car is charged for parking at any time on Sundays, holidays, or during special events at Independence Hall.
Independence Hall was originally built between 1772 and 1775 to serve as Pennsylvania's legislative chamber before it became the U.S. Congress' home. The first session of the United States Congress was held here in April 1789. After Washington took office as President in March 1790, he moved his offices to the Old Executive Office Building next door. In 1813, following the War of 1812, Congress returned to Independence Hall where it has remained since then.