Independence National Historical Park – the Seat of American Democracy

Independence National Historical Park – the Seat of American Democracy

In the heart of Philadelphia where the roots of American Democracy first took hold, we celebrate everything in our nation we hold dear. Independence National Historical Park was built on the spirit of revolution in America, where visitors can experience the story of freedom.

Few ideas capture the hearts and imaginations of humans that they take the shape of physical objects with a universal meaning. At least for Americans, no other symbols of individual freedom quite compare with the Liberty Bell.

Encompassing 55 acres and 20 urban blocks, these are the grounds where the dream of a free country of sovereign citizens came to fruition. The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Congress Hall, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, the National Constitution Center, and the Independence Visitor Center are just a few of the places to visit in this historical park – and all are free.

Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and signed

The linchpin of this L-shaped park is Independence Hall, a regal 18th-century Georgian edifice set in a 5-acre square in Philadelphia’s oldest commercial district. This is also the site of Benjamin Franklin’s residence amidst a colonial landscape with historic churches, cemeteries, glorious gardens, and various monuments.

Here on these grounds is where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both deliberated and written, and on which the foundations of our country rest. Philadelphia was the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800, and it was also here that the concept of governance based on the rights of individual citizens was first tested.

The Story Behind It All

Created by Congress in 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Public Law 795 on June 28th, effectively creating the park. In 1950, the National Park Service began administering the park, but it wasn’t officially established until 1956. Before its establishment, the area suffered a decline, and many buildings not built in the 18th and 19th centuries were demolished in an effort to create a colonial-centric park. Other historic buildings were meticulously restored.

The result is a proud reference to historical origins while also retaining a modern edge; a mix of red brick buildings knit together with cobblestone alleys and richly articulated pedestrian areas, pristine lawns, and lovely brick walks.

The bell that eventually became the Liberty Bell was originally made in Great Britain, and recast in 1753 to adorn the State House in Philadelphia. It was used as a chime to call members of the Pennsylvania Assembly to meetings. Eventually, it became a symbol of freedom to Civil Rights Advocates, abolitionists, suffragists, immigrants, Native Americans, war protestors, and others who sought a symbol of freedom.

The Liberty Bell was originally made to hang in the Pennsylvania State House. Today that building is known as Independence Hall and can be seen through the window behind the bell.

It took the cooperation, effort, and devotion of the City of Philadelphia, the National Park Service, and countless private citizens to cultivate this area for the enlightenment and enjoyment of all those who come here.

Click here to see the Independence National Historical Park poster.

Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist who had the rare privilege of studying under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was just 19 years old. Now, Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph all of America’s National Parks. He’s creating WPA-style posters to help people celebrate their own national park adventures — as well as encourage others to get out and explore!

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