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Philly Photos Part 3: Independence Hall

What's now known as Independence Hall started it's life as the Pennsylvania State House, the seat of Pennsylvania's government, including it's judiciary.  The building was renovated in 1949 to restore it to it's state when the Declaration was signed-- including 18th century antiques arranged as it was in 1775 and painted in the same colors.

Outside the front doors, a statue of George Washington






This is the court chambers on the first floor.  Yes, it is and was that hideous "creamed pumpkin" color, or so says the Park Ranger giving the tour.  Above the judges desk you can see a black background painting, the symbol of Pennsylvania, a hideous thing that is original to the room.  While the other furniture and pieces are authentic to the time, they're not original.  Before the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence what was hung there was a carved and gilded sculpture of the coat of arms of the King of England. When the Declaration was read a group of Pennsylvania soldiers tore it down off the wall and dragged it through the streets of Philly, destroying it.  That act alone was enough to be tried for treason and punished by being drawn and quartered.  It makes it easy to see why the Founding Fathers constructed the First Amendment the way they did when they got together again eleven years after the signing to write the Constitution.  It really made me think about and appreciate the freedom of speech so much more, for such a harmless "crime" to be  punishable by a gruesome death, the destruction of a symbol of the king.  That's why despite my patriotism, I firmly believe that burning a flag in protest has it's place in our society and that to write a law banning it is completely against what the framers of our government believed.

Additionally, see that iron cage in the lower left corner of the picture.  That's where you "stood trial."  People on trial literally stood up in an iron cage throughout the proceedings. on display.  The table in front of it with the green tablecloth is where all the lawyers sat.  Together.  At one table.  That's the way they do things in England still, says the park ranger.



Ranger shows us the King's coat of arms.  He was happy to report that the soldiers responsible were never caught and tried.



The painting that's been hanging there over the judges bench since 1776.  What's with the cartoon horses? I thought this was so hideous, I had to get a picture.



Then we went to the big room.  The room where it all happened.  Just walking in and looking around, my eyes started to well up with tears.  I can't help but think about these men and all they did, how they changed the world.  To stand up to the biggest colonial power and say that they weren't going to follow their unfair laws, to take on such a powerful army with a bunch of scraggly, untrained men loosely grouped into militias with no real training or money to fight. There they were, filling the same space, debating, arguing, hammering out the details.  How sure were they that it was going to work?   Were they afraid for their lives or so angry that it didn't matter any more?  What about their wives and families?




A different angle of the room.  Other things that happened in this room include:  From 1775 to 1783 (except for the winter of 1777 - 1778 when Philadelphia was occupied by the British Army) this was the meeting place for the Second Continental Congress, George Washington was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army in 1775,  the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, the design of the American flag was agreed upon in 1777, the Articles of Confederation were adopted in 1781and the US Constitution was drafted in 1787.




Table with glasses on it, set up as Ben Franklin's table.



After independence was declared and the war won by the colonists, the established government through the Articles of Confederation was a gigantic mess.  The Articles set up each state as it's own nation.  States printed their own money.  There were all sorts of problems with money, intestate commerce, international commerce and politics.  It was set up more like the current European Union and it was not good.  There was no centralized anything.  So back to Independence Hall.   This is the table on the dais where General George Washington sat and watched the drafting of our Constitution.  On the back of the chair, at the top, is a carved sun.   This is the original chair Washington sat in and of course, you can't get anywhere close to it.  Apparently, at the end of the session where the Constitution was written, Benjamin Franklin said to James Madison, "I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I... know that it is a rising sun."




The handrail leading to the upper chamber and the bell tower where the Liberty Bell originally rang, where there is now the Centennial Bell.  I took a photo of tit because it is the only original thing in the building that visitors are allowed to touch.  So while I limped up the stairs (because my ankle was getting sore from being on my feet all day) I held on to the railing and imagined my hands running over the same wood Ben used to pull himself and his gouty leg up the same stairs. 

The Park Ranger explained to us that commercial filmmakers are not permitted to film in the interior of Independence Hall.  They can film outside but not inside.  So what's the deal with National Treasure, the US history DaVinci Code?  Apparently Knotts Berry Farm in California has a full-scale, brick-by-brick replica of Independence Hall and the only difference is that the woodwork and trim in California is two colors.  So of course, Wayne and I rented National Treasure and watched it.  Sure enough, when Nic Cage and co-stars are running through the building, you can see that on the side of the stairs, the little flourishes are painted white (see below).  In the real building, pictured above, all the woodwork is blue.




Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
gi_janearng
Jul. 31st, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC)
Interesting snippets about National Treasure! (I love that movie and was ticked I didn't get to go to Mt. Rushmore to look for "hidden maps" during AT.)
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