The History of Philadelphia's Independence Mall: For centuries, the historic land we now call Independence Mall has been known around the world as “America’s birthplace”—a proud designation it has earned for its role in the development of the guiding principles of the nation. But like the U.S. Constitution, Independence Mall has continuously evolved with time. Here’s a look at what has changed on “America’s most historic square mile” since before the Founding Fathers first set their quills to paper.
Independence Mall Philadelphia Timeline
1732 - Construction begins on Independence Hall, built as the State House of the Province of Pennsylvania. Construction is completed in 1756.
1775 - The Second Continental Congress meets at Independence Hall until 1783, with the exception of 1777-1778 when Philadelphia was occupied by British forces.
1775 - George Washington is appointed as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in the Assembly Room at Independence Hall.
1776 - The Declaration of Independence is adopted in the Assembly Room.
1777 - Members of the Continental Congress agree on the design of the American flag in the Assembly Room.
1781 - The Articles of Confederation are adopted at Independence Hall.
1784 - The Free Quaker Meeting House is built at 5th and Arch Streets to serve members “read out” of the religion, some for fighting in the Revolution. Betsy Ross regularly attended services here.
1787 - The U.S. Constitution is drafted at Independence Hall.
1790 - Philadelphia serves as the nation’s temporary capital until 1800. During this time, Presidents George Washington and John Adams live at 190 High Street, now Market Street. Two blocks away, free black families live side by side with a community of white laborers, shopkeepers and artisans.
1792 - James Oronoko Dexter holds the first organizational meeting for the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in his home on 5th Street.
1850 - For the next 100 years, the book and printing trades are concentrated in the Independence Hall neighborhood. Maps and atlases produced in this district are sold to cities across the nation.
1915 - Philadelphians begin to discuss the need to create an appropriate setting for Independence Hall.
1942 - The Independence Hall Association forms to preserve, protect and dignify Independence Hall.
1945 - The three blocks north of Independence Hall are designated as Independence Mall State Park.
1946 - Governor Edward Martin approves $3 million for the acquisition of property and demolition work to construct Independence Mall.
1948 - Independence National Historical Park (INHP) is established as part of the National Park Service.
1950 - INHP begins administration of the land, and over the next eight years, buildings are purchased and demolished to make way for improvements to the park.
1951 - Construction of Independence Mall begins as a partnership between the city and state. Construction is deemed complete in 1967.
1956 - Lewis Mumford’s articles about the Mall run in The New Yorker magazine.
1973 - INHP, a unit of the National Park Service, begins to manage the Mall and eventually takes over responsibility from the state.
1976 - Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence and the opening of the National Museum of American Jewish History and the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
1987 - Bicentennial of the Constitution: “We the People” begins a “Rocks Across America” campaign to build a memorial to the Constitution with rocks from each state in the Union (this plan lost momentum one year later but gave way to the plan to build the National Constitution Center).
1998 - INHP’s General Management Plan to enhance and redesign the Mall for the modern era goes into effect.
1999 - Lights of Liberty Show opens.
2001 - The Independence Visitor Center is completed as a gateway to the region.
2003 - The National Constitution Center opens as the nation’s only center devoted to the study of the Constitution.
2003 - The Liberty Bell is moved to its new home inside the Liberty Bell Center.
2005 - Once Upon A Nation is established and debuts storytelling benches and Adventure Tours.
2006 - Franklin Square officially reopens under the management of Once Upon A Nation.
2007 - An archaeological dig takes place on the grounds of the to-be-constructed President’s House Commemorative Site to seek evidence of the enslaved Africans who lived there.
2008 - President’s House Commemorative Site opens and forms the cornerstone of a celebration to honor the completion of the 10-year General Management Plan for Independence National Historical Park.