The United States of America, a revolutionary new form of representative government under the Constitution, began at Federal Hall in New York City, the nation’s First Capital.
Here, the First Congress met and inaugurated the First President and set the benchmark for the most prolific sessions in history. Among their greatest accomplishments was drafting the First Freedoms, a declaration of individual rights celebrated today as the Bill of Rights.
A New Day at Federal Hall
The National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy, in partnership with the National Park Service, is working now to transform Federal Hall National Memorial through the arts, humanities and cultural experiences.
We envision Federal Hall as a place where diverse perspectives and multi-disciplinary talents will be invited to interpret the ideas, ideals, flaws and contradictions of American democracy with public forums, performances, exhibitions and art installations that will ultimately arc through three floors of the landmark building and spill out onto the façade itself. So few are aware of the sacred character of this historic memorial, the enormous opportunity at Federal Hall is to invite over 17 million people who pass by each year to step inside and discover a national treasure that’s hiding in plain sight.
The Conservancy will present a resonant narrative of what happened inside Federal Hall as well as what happened outside its walls – a history recognizing the perspectives of those left out of the original freedoms and rights of democracy – the repercussions of which are still being felt today. We are committed to redeeming the founding aspirations – to create a more perfect Union characterized by inclusion and indivisibility. We will create imaginative programming, multicultural activations, and ambitious awareness campaigns that include underrepresented voices and the stories of all Americans.
New Day Exhibition Concepts and Programs
BRC Imagination Arts, Ralph Applebaum & Associates International and 59 Productions have created the facility concept design, which utilizes 30,000 square foot building to create the Federal Hall narrative arc. Click to enlarge images in a slideshow viewer.
The vision is a New Day for Federal Hall and the revitalization of Federal Hall is well underway.
Art exhibitions both inside and on the facade have already attracted millions of people. Across the country thousands of people have logged on since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic to watch the virtual discussion series Debate Defends Democracy, which will continue in 2021-22 with both online and live events. Extensive plans are already in place to activate the interior of the building with new immersive exhibitions, performances of The Democracy Project, and a bold illumination of the Grand Rotunda that will tell the story of America’s founding in a way that has never been done before.
“The goal is for visitors to emerge from Federal Hall transformed by their experience, engaged by the abiding struggle to reconcile the ideals and imperfections of our democracy, and inspired by the promise of the future.”
Mandate of the Historians, Writers and Artist Advisory Working Group
Pocantico Center Meeting, September 2018
In 2015, Federal Hall was designated a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy has subsequently focused on the restoration and preservation of the landmark building as well as laying plans for a New Day and securing funding to fulfill this exciting vision.
The Conservancy is a 501 [c] 3 non-profit organization officially sanctioned by the National Park Service for this fundraising endeavor. The Conservancy has already raised $6+ million for Federal Hall to accomplish the following:
- Public programs and activations in the visual arts, literary arts and humanities, including four historic walking tours integrating Federal Hall into the development of New York City and America.
- Cataloguing and digitization of the archival collections of Federal Hall and other national park historic sites in Manhattan.
- Emergency restoration of the iconic Wall Street steps and statue of George Washington.
- Primary scholarship for New Day at Federal Hall with the First Federal Congress Project at George Washington University, editors of a 22-volume Documentary History.
- Facility concept design for New Day at Federal Hall which utilizes 30,000 square feet and grand rotunda dome by BRC Imagination Arts, Ralph Applebaum & Associates International, and 59 Productions, premiere museum experience and design firms.
- Sustainability plan with operational financial model and traffic study for New Day at Federal Hall by Management Resources and AECOM respectively.
Restoration work has already been completed on the colossal bronze statue of George Washington. The statue was erected in 1883—created by sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward.