Federal Hall – The Birthplace of American Democracy
SCT is working with the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy (Harbor Conservancy) on the multi-million dollar restoration of Federal Hall, one of New York’s – and the United States’ – most iconic national memorials.
Federal Hall stands on the site on Wall Street on which it can truly be said that American history was made and American democracy forged. It was here in 1789 that the first Federal Congress of the United States convened in the nation’s first capitol and George Washington was inaugurated as its first President.
It was here too that that first Congress established the American system of government and conceived the Bill of Rights which has promoted and protected the liberties of American citizens for over 200 years – and, of course, includes the First Amendment which guarantees the right to free expression.
The original building was demolished in 1812 and the one which stands there now was conceived in the mid-nineteenth century as an architectural embodiment of the democratic ideal, drawing inspiration not only from the American past but also from the Parthenon of ancient Athens and the Pantheon of republican Rome.
The building has had many uses over the years but for decades its front steps have served as America’s soapbox. From the bond and political rallies of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s to the Occupy Movement of the new millennium, Federal Hall is where Americans come for debate, dissent and dialogue.
Building on the Legacy
Now the Harbor Conservancy in partnership with the National Park Service has launched an ambitious plan for the regeneration of Federal Hall which aims not only to restore the fabric of the historic building but also to showcase, celebrate and build upon its incomparable heritage.
At the heart of the restoration lies a visionary proposal to create the People’s Platform, a new forum for free expression and debate which in honouring America’s democratic past, will establish an important new platform for its future.
SCT has been commissioned to develop a coordinated program of public events on the steps of the building and in its Grand Rotunda, designed to make Federal Hall a global symbol of the free society and an inspirational forum for the exercise of the rights to free expression and to open, tolerant and enriching public debate.
Plans are currently being developed and will be further refined as partners and collaborators are identified and more information will follow here in due course.
The People’s Platform
However, in broad terms, the plans will create a series of platforms on the steps and around the plinth of George Washington’s statue for the celebration of all forms of free expression – from events in which speakers from all backgrounds can speak freely about the ideas and issues which move them to performances of theatre, dance and music which express our common humanity.
The building’s Grand Rotunda will provide a forum in which the leading thinkers and speakers of our times can engage with each other and with the public in debate about the timeless ideas and the current issues which matter to us all.
And the huge potential of modern technology will be harnessed not only to carry these events to the widest public audience but also to create opportunities for citizens from all parts of the United States and from all over the world to participate in and contribute to them.