First Bank of the United States of America

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The First Bank of the

United States…

 

is one of the most important landmarks of the founding period of our country. It is the icon of the United States’ financial foundation, just as Independence Hall is the icon of the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution. This historic building is no longer open to the public due to deteriorating mechanical systems but with the 250th Birthday of our nation just around the corner, the Independence Historical Trust and Independence National Historical Park want to change that status.  By raising much needed funds, we plan to fix the mechanical systems, bring the building up to code and tell the story of the First Bank and our nation’s early economy.  We cannot do this without the public’s support.

 

Click here for updates on the project

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Photo Credit: City of Philadelphia

History of the Building

Sitting two blocks from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, it is the oldest surviving federal building (1796). Suggested by Alexander Hamilton and endorsed by President Washington, the First Bank replaced the individual states’ currencies with one national currency and was the basis for paying back the nation’s substantial revolutionary war debt. It stabilized the economy and established the nation’s credit, which laid the foundation for the United States’ economic future and enabled the USA to be seen as a strong nation in the eyes of other countries. Controversial among those championing states’ rights, its charter lapsed in 1811.

 

Philanthropist and merchant, Stephen Girard purchased the building and all supplies from the government and opened his own bank in 1811. When he died, the building was left to the city through his estate.  The city rented the space to another bank that called themselves Girard Bank. After remodeling the interior in the early 1900’s, Girard Bank moved out of the First Bank in the early 1930’s.  Still owned by the city, the building was used for a multitude of purposes until 1955 when it was purchased by the National Park Service where it acted as a temporary visitor center until 1976.

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The Project

In 2018, the Independence Historical Trust and the Independence National Historical Park entered into an agreement to raise funds to restore the First Bank of the United States and make it into a museum dedicated to telling the story of our early economy. From multiple perspectives, the exhibits will look at the components that encompassed our nation’s economy and the role the First Bank played in the individual’s life as well as making our country a world leader.

 

 

John Milner Architects

John Milner Architects were hired in late 2019 to work on updating the outdated mechanical systems, incorporating additional restrooms and figuring out a second egress that would allow visitors to move about the building safely.  Many variations were discussed, from incorporating all the changes inside the existing footprint to building an addition to house the updates.  After much deliberation, it was decided by the working team, to build an addition off the east side of the building that would house updated restrooms, a new elevator and stairwell as well as the new mechanical systems.  This decision enables the building to be brought up to code without sacrificing the original facade on the front.

 

The picture to the right shows the proposed addition to the building. At this time, final approval of the addition has not been given by the National Park Service Design Advisory Board.

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Local Projects LLC

Local Projects LLC was hired in early 2020 as the Interpretive and Exhibit Planners to the project.  Working closely with the staff at Independence National Historical Park, their task was to decide which stories would be shared in the space and how the stories would be conveyed.  Finding inspiration in the everyday people of the 18th century, the working team is focusing on telling the story of our early economy from their perspective.

 

While not finalized, the plan is for the first floor exhibits to be broken out into different sections, each describing a piece of our early economy.  The rotunda will be used as a gathering point to bring all the pieces together. (Shown on the right) On the second floor, the plan is to have a portion of the park’s Architectural Study Collection on display as well as temporary exhibit space for rotating exhibits.

 

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For more information on the project, email us at Attn@inht.org or call us at 215-861-4971.

To support the First Bank Restoration project, click the button below.

First Bank Social