Exploring Independence Hall in Philadelphia

Exploring Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States!

Informational display outside Independence Hall.
Informational display outside Independence Hall.

In 1776, the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence here.

The Declaration of Independence was signed on August 2, 1776.
The Declaration of Independence was signed on August 2, 1776.

Eleven years later, in the same room, delegates to the Constitutional Convention created and signed the United States Constitution.

The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both debated and signed inside this room at Independence Hall.
The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both debated and signed in this room.

Although known today as Independence Hall, the building was constructed to be the Pennsylvania State House.

Independence Hall was completed in 1753 as the Pennsylvania State House
Independence Hall was completed in 1753 as the Pennsylvania State House.

It once housed all three branches of Pennsylvania’s colonial government.

This room at what is now called Independence Hall housed the Supreme Court of colonial Pennsylvania.
This room once housed the Supreme Court of colonial Pennsylvania.

Today Independence Hall is the centerpiece of the Independence National Historical Park, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Independence Hall in Philadelphia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Touring Independence Hall

Independence Hall is open for tours daily from 9 am to 7 pm.

The highest point to the tip of the steeple spire on Independence Hall is 168 feet above the ground.
The highest point to the tip of the steeple spire on Independence Hall is 168 feet above the ground.

Entrance is by guided tour only, and timed entry tickets are required from March through December.

Visitors to Independence Hall must pay one dollar to reserve a ticket online or by phone before visiting.
Visitors to Independence Hall between 9 am and 5 pm must pay one dollar to reserve a ticket online or by phone before being admitted.

No tickets are required after 5pm; entrance is first-come, first-served.

View from the Assembly Room into the Supreme Court Room at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
View from the Assembly Room into the Supreme Court Room.

What You’ll See on the Tour

Tours are led by a National Park Service Ranger, and begin by entering through the front door of Independence Hall, near a statue of George Washington.

Statue of George Washington in front of Independence Hall.
Statue of George Washington in front of Independence Hall.

The first stop on the tour is the Supreme Court Room, which once housed the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court Room at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
The Supreme Court Room at Independence Hall.

Above the bench where the four judges sat hangs a beautiful painting of the Pennsylvania State Seal.

A painting of the Pennsylvania State Seal hanging over the judge's chairs in the Supreme Court Room at Independence Hall.
A painting of the Pennsylvania State Seal hanging over the judge’s bench in the Supreme Court Room.

The second stop on the tour is the Assembly Room.

A Park Ranger explains the historic significance of the Assembly Room at Independence Hall.
A park ranger explains the historic significance of the Assembly Room at Independence Hall.

The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both signed in this room.

The Constitution of the United States was signed at Independence Hall on September 17, 1787.
The Constitution of the United States was signed at Independence Hall on September 17, 1787.

In the 1850s, the Assembly Room became a shrine to the founding of the nation, proudly displaying the Liberty Bell and original paintings of the Founding Fathers.

View of Independence Hall from the Liberty Bell.
The Liberty Bell, now housed in its own building, was once displayed in the Assembly Room inside Independence Hall.

President-elect Abraham Lincoln visited this shrine-like room in 1861, as he journeyed to Washington D.C. for his inauguration.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in this room on August 2, 1776.
The Declaration of Independence was signed in this room on August 2, 1776.

After his assassination in 1865, President Lincoln’s body returned to the Assembly Room to lie in state for two days, where more than 85,000 mourners passed by the casket.

The chair where George Washington was seated as the presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention.
The chair where George Washington was seated as the presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention.

While you cannot get close to the actual “Rising Sun Chair” where George Washington sat while presiding over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, you can sit in an exact replica of it at the nearby Independence Visitor Center.

A replica of the Rising Sun Chair where George Washington sat at Independence Hall.
A replica of the “Rising Sun Chair”, where George Washington sat at Independence Hall.

The tour moves back out into the hallway between the two chambers, where you’ll see a grand staircase leading to a second floor.

Staircase leading to the second floor of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Staircase leading to the second floor of Independence Hall.

While the second floor is not part of the tour (at least not as of July 2022), it once housed the Governor’s office, and was used in the time the British occupied Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War as a prison hospital for American POWs.

A plaque memorializing the American POWs housed on the upper floor of Independence Hall in 1777-1778.
A plaque memorializing the American POWs held on the upper floor of Independence Hall in 1777-1778.

You’ll also notice many ornate wood carvings in this hallway between the two lower chambers of the building.

Carver Samuel Harding created much of the ornamental woodwork at Independence Hall.
Carver Samuel Harding created much of the ornamental woodwork at Independence Hall.

The tour then exits the rear of Independence Hall onto Independence Square.

An informational display in Independence Square behind Independence Hall.
An informational display in Independence Square.

From here you can take a self-guided tour (no ticket required) of the West Wing of Independence Hall, which houses an exhibit called the Great Essentials.

The Great Essentials exhibit at the West Wing of Independence Hall.
The Great Essentials exhibit at the West Wing of Independence Hall.

In this smaller chamber you’ll find original copies of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, as well as the inkwell used to sign both documents.

The Syng Inkstand used to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
The Syng Inkstand used to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Final Thoughts

There is no more important or historic site in the United States that Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

A view of Independence Hall from the second-floor patio at the Independence Visitor Center.
A view of Independence Hall from the second-floor patio at the Independence Visitor Center.

The debates, decisions, and documents associated with this building literally gave birth to the Nation, and have shaped every American’s lives to this very day.

A plaque on an outside wall of Independence Hall.
A plaque commemorating the many historic events that unfolded at Independence Hall.

Visiting the exact spot where the United States got its start is a pilgrimage that, in my humble opinion, every American should make at least once in their lives.

Howard Chandler Christy's Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States
Howard Chandler Christy’s “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States” (public domain image).

The Pine Creek Declaration of Independence, as it has come to be known, was signed on July 4, 1776 beneath an elm tree on the west bank of present-day Pine Creek in Clinton County.

Tiadaghton Elm historical marker along Route 220 in Clinton County, Pennsylvania.
Tiadaghton Elm historical marker along Route 220 in Clinton County, Pennsylvania.

The signers were a group of frontier settlers known as the Fair Play Men, and they signed their own declaration of independence from Great Britain at about the same time as the final draft of the Declaration of Independence was being approved by the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia.

Remembering the Pine Creek Declaration of Independence in Clinton County Pennsylvania.
Site of the signing of the Pine Creek Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Considering that the Declaration of Independence drafted in Philadelphia wasn’t actually signed until August 2, 1776, it is possible that the Pine Creek Declaration of Independence was the first “signed” declaration of its kind!

Signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on August 2, 1776.
Signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on August 2, 1776.

Nearby Attractions

Although he signed neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution, Rocky Balboa certainly rivals the Founding Fathers for fame in Philadelphia!

Rocky Balboa figure at the Independence Visitor Center in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Rocky Balboa figure at the Independence Visitor Center in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Visiting the Rocky Statue and Steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum is your guide to paying homage to Philly’s favorite fictional son.

Visiting the Rocky Statue and Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum.
The Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

You’ll find both the Rocky statue and Rocky Steps on the southeast side of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, both completely free to visit!

View from the Rocky steps, towards downtown Philadelphia.
View from the Rocky steps, towards downtown Philadelphia.

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Rusty Glessner is a professional photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.