Independence National Historical Park

Independence National Historical Park at 143 S. Third Street covers over 40 acres, about 20 blocks, in the heart of the city. The Park is the site of numerous historical attractions and famous landmarks relating to the American Revolution and the birth of our nation including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Christ Church, Mikveh Israel Cemetery (the oldest Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia), Congress Hall, Old City Hall, and the National Constitution Center. Authorized as a national park in 1948 and established in 1956, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places 10 years later, and subsequently designated a World Heritage Site. The Park receives thousands of visitors on family outings, field trips, and tours each year.

The Liberty Bell Center, on Market between 5th and 6th, is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Liberty Bell is housed within a glass-enclosed chamber in the Center pavilion facing Independence Hall. After traveling around the world to expositions and fairs, it was returned home to Philadelphia in 1915. History reveals that the original Bell, cast in London, cracked and was repaired in 1753 in Philadelphia. For some unknown reason, the Bell cracked once again in 1846, and it was rung for the last time that year in celebration of George Washington’s birthday. The Liberty Bell, weighing approximately 2,000 pounds and suspended from its original brace of American or slippery elm, is made of 70% copper, 25% tin, and small amounts of tin, zinc, arsenic, gold, and silver. Regular exhibits, video presentations, and talks on the history of the Bell are held at the Center.

One of the main attractions in the Park is Independence Hall where the Assembly Room was the scene of significant historical events including the signings of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution, and the adoption of the American flag design. The interior and exterior of the Hall have been fully restored with 18th century antiques, including the original “rising sun” chair where George Washington presided over the Continental Convention. The Great Essentials Exhibit in the West wing of the Hall contains copies of the Declaration, the Articles, and the Constitution, as well as the silver inkwell that was used for the signing.

For most people, Benjamin Franklin, the inventor, scientist, statesman, and a founding father of our nation also symbolizes Philadelphia, and as such, is honored throughout the city. Franklin Court, a courtyard area between 3rd and 4th Street houses a 54’ steel structure where Franklin’s home once stood. The area is dedicated to teaching about Franklin, where visitors can explore the underground museum filled with his paintings, objects, and inventions, Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Here, you’ll discover fascinating, unique items such as the Glass Armonica, a musical instrument invented by Franklin and played by Marie Antoinette, with music composed for it by Mozart and Beethoven. In addition, the Court features a bindery, a U.S. Postal Museum, and the restored newspaper publishing office of his grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache, open Wednesday — Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Other points of interest in the Park include Christ Church, completed in 1744 with the tower and steeple financed primarily through lotteries run by Benjamin Franklin, and Congress Hall, where the inaugurations of George Washington and John Adams were held. The President’s House, where Washington and Adams lived and conducted business for a time, along with their slaves, no longer exists. In its place, there will be a permanent outdoor installation of approximately 12,000 square feet, expected to be completed in October 2007, to commemorate how freedom and slavery were involved in creating a new nation. As a part of the Independence National Park, the Independence Park Institute offers educational resources for all ages. This year, 2007, there will be an educational one-week workshop for school children to learn about and discuss the history and symbolism of the Liberty Bell.

Hours: Open daily 9:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m. (most sites). Closed Christmas Day.
Admission: With the exception of Independence Hall, entrance to the Park and the various attractions is free and open to the public at various times and dates. Independence Hall: Tickets (up to 10 per person) can be picked up for a specific date and time at the Visitor Center at 6th and Market Street, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., or reserved up to a year in advance — 1-877-444-6777, or online at recreation.gov.

Handicap accessible and assistance available. Parking garages nearby.

(Note: Contrary to the film National Treasure, there are no hidden messages on the reverse side of the Declaration.)

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