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Haunted Cork

October 30, 2011

Since it is Halloween tomorrow I figured it would be nice to give a brief rundown of some buildings around Cork that have a reputation for being haunted

Cork City Gaol

No surprise that an old jail should have plenty of reports of ghosts. Prisoners were kept there from 1824 to 1923. Hangings used to take place where the disabled parking spots are now.

Charles Fort Kinsale

The most famous ghost of Kinsale is known as the White Lady. Constructed in1677 on the site of an earlier coastal fortification, this star-shaped fortress, with its five bastions and two surviving brick sentry boxes, straddles a sea swept rocky trajectory. Not long after the completion of the fort Colonel Warrender became its commanding officer. He was a strict authoritarian who believed in a rigorous regime of discipline and had little sympathy for any man who stinted or faltered at his duties. His daughter, Wilful, a vivacious and beautiful girl, fell in love with Sir Trevor Ashurst, who was an officer at the fort, and the two were duly married. At sunset on the day of their wedding, the newly married couple were strolling along the battlements when the bride noticed some flowers growing on the rock beneath and commented on their beauty. A sentry agreed to climb down and pick them for her on the condition that her husband would take his place on duty. Sir Trevor agreed, donned the soldier’s greatcoat, took his musket and entered the sentry box, whilst its original occupant began the perilous descent to the rocks below. It had been a long day, and no sooner had Ashurst sat down than he fell fast asleep. Just then, Colonel Warrender began his routine inspection of the fort’s sentry boxes. He was furious to find a guardsman asleep on duty and, drawing his pistol, shot the man through the heart. As the sentry fell to the ground dead, his coat came open and the Colonel saw that he had killed his own son-in-law. When Wilful learnt of her husband’s death she was inconsolable and, letting out a howl of despair, raced to the battlements, from which she threw herself to her death. The sight of her body proved too much for Colonel Warrender and, placing his pistol against his head, he pulled the trigger and blew out his brains. Three tragic deaths on a day that should have been a celebration have, inevitably, left their mark upon the ether of this casemated, windswept monument. It is the ghost of Wilful Warrender who haunts the garrison. Wearing a flowing white dress, she drifts in mournful despair, either around the ramparts or up and down the stairs of the stronghold. Those who encounter her silent wraith describe her as very beautiful but very pale. She passes by them, her dark eyes fixed on some distant objective. She pays them no heed, and soldiers used to speak of their alarm at seeing her pass straight through locked doors, whilst others complained of being pushed down the stairs by an unseen hand, presumably hers.

Barryscourt Castle

The castle in it’s present form dates from the 15th or 16th centuries but the land was occupied by the Anglo-Norman de Barry family from the 12th century. This Barrymore dynasty owned the castle up until the 18th century when the land passed to the Coppingers. Ghost hunters who have visited the castle have claimed they discovered two ghosts in the dungeons and one in the great hall. Local legend has it that anyone passing the castle at night will spot a light coming from the great hall where a woman can be seen brushing her hair. It is believed this is the spirit of the Lady Catherine who was disinherited after the lands passed to her cousin when there were no other male heirs.

Christchurch

There is a legend relating to Christchurch and the Siege of Cork. The story goes that during the Siege in 1690, 1,300 Protestants were held captive in Christchurch, St Peter’s Church, and the Court House. When the city fell to the Williamite troops, Protestants held captive in Christchurch were released and in turn Roman Catholics were then locked up. Tradition has it that of the 760 Roman Catholics imprisoned in Christchurch only 26 emerged alive. In the late 19th century a pit was recorded and partially excavated to the east of the former primary school in Bishop Lucey Park. The human bone remains in the pit were thought by the excavators to be victims of the Siege but no evidence is cited to support this conclusion and the remains were later lost. It is possible that these remains were from a charnel pit which was associated with the adjacent graveyard in Christchurch. Regardless of the accuracy of the legend there have been a few reports of strange goings on in the building, such as a ghostly wind that seems to come from nowhere. Perhaps some of the occupants of the crypt are still hanging around.

There are plenty of other haunted places throughout Cork and Ireland so if anyone has some stories please pass them on. It is Halloween after all 🙂

The Modest Man

September 22, 2011

A long holiday and a new job have kept me away from this blog for much longer than anticipated. I return though with something a bit different. Up until now the main focus of this blog has been on larger heritage sites. However for this blog I want to narrow that down and discuss something within one of the heritage sites I have blogged about before. I preciously wrote in regard to Triskel Christchurch but while doing so I neglected something very intriguing there. I felt it deserved it’s own post.

As I had mentioned before when writing about Triskel Christchurch, many of the important families of the city were buried there back when it was the main church for Cork city. Among these notables are a number of former mayors (the term Lord Mayor didn’t come into use until the time of Queen Victoria). For the majority no real trace remains. Time and various rebuildings of the church have hidden or destroyed their monuments. There is one very interesting gravestone that has survived and passed into local legend in Cork. It is often referred to as ‘The Modest Man of Christchurch’.

    

This is the gravestone of Thomas Ronan, twice mayor of Cork in 1537 and again in 1549. He died on August 13 1554. It is referred to as ‘The Modest Man’ because of the way one of the hands is positioned. If you look closely you will notice it is positioned to cover the ‘modesty’ of the central figure, which is a skeleton.

The gravestone is believed to have formed part of the floor of the old church before it’s demolition and rebuilding in 1720. It was rediscovered in 1815 buried beneath the crypt. By 1877 it had been moved outside near the cemetary gates.

The crypt of Christchurch

The graveyard as it is today

Presently the slab is viewable to the public at the front entrance to Christchurch

There is much more to the Modest Man than simply the way the hands are positioned. Looking closely at the slab reveals a number of very intriguing details. These can be seen much better on an illustrated version of the slab from the 1800s

The skeleton is wrapped in a shrowd. The practice of using coffins for burials only became common relatively recently. Before that the body was wrapped in a cloth shroud before being placed in the ground.

The gothic style lettering that goes all around the slab is in Latin and reads:

“In this tomb is covered by body of the gracious gentleman Thomas Ronan, formerly Mayor of this City of Cork, who died on
the day after Saint Jambert’s Day (13 August) in the year of our Lord 1554. With whom there also wises to be buried his wife Joan Tyrry, who died on the 1st December in the year of our Lord 1569: on whose souls may God have mercy. Amen. Pater, Ave and Credo. De profundis.”

This bit of biographical information is significant. Ronan (sometimes spelled Ronayne) is believed to have been a surname of Gaelic origin. This is interesting at a time when most of the nobility of Cork city were of Anglo-Norman descent. His wife was of the Tyrry (or Terry) family, one of those Anglo-Norman families. We have little information from this period so we don’t know much else about Thomas Ronan or the Ronan family. This was during the period of Henry VIII when there was a lot of upheaval among the established nobilities of Britain and Ireland. Perhaps the Ronan family gained land and wealth under the Tudors, so were able to make a match with one of the prestigious families of the city. This certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt Thomas Ronans position within society if he was elected Mayor twice. For all that there must have been some genuine feeling between them for his wife to add her name to the slab later on.

Looking at each of the corners we can see the symbol for one of the four Evangelists, the writers of the Gospels. The symbols for Matthew, Mark and John are present but the corner with Luke has been broken off.

The presence of a skeleton on a Christian burial from the 1500’s might also seem very strange. We are more used to seeing human representations. However this type of symbolism, known as memento mori, was very common from the later Medieval period right up until the beginnings of the Renaissance. The spread of plagues like the Black Death made people very aware of their mortality and of what sort of life they should lead in order to be accepted into heaven. This is emphasised in the final line of inscription “Man, be mindful, since Death does not tarry: for when he dies, you will inherit serpents and beasts worms.” Not particularly cheerful but it was meant to be a rejection of vanity and other wordly trappings. To remind people that they could not take their possessions with them.

There are also four other symbols surrounding the skeleton. A sun, a moon, a star and a rose. There are numerous interpretations for these symbols and I have yet to find a definitive answer as to what they may represent in this context. For instance, the rose could be a sign of marital devotion and love or a sign of loyalty to the Tudor dynasty, which had the rose as it’s emblem. We also see the initials TR by the feet of the skeleton.

This slab also raises a few questions about the ability of whoever carved the skeleton. Obviously there weren’t too good on human anatomy. One side of the skeleton has a few more ribs than the other.

It is certainly a fascinating and enigmatic carving. Thomas Ronan must have been a very well educated individual and wealthy to get a grave slab like this. It is only a pity we don’t know more about him, other than his rank. But I’m sure he would be pleased to know his memorial continues to draw interest and comment.

Labbacallee

August 4, 2011

Most of my recent blogs have been focussed on historic sites within Cork city so I wanted to look at something a bit further afield this time. This will also be the oldest site I have written on so far.

Labbacallee is a prehistoric wedge tomb located 2km from the town of Glanworth in North Cork. It dates to the Neolithic or Late Stone Age in Ireland. The Neolithic period is when people in Ireland began to change from a hunter gatherer lifestyle to a more settled farming one. It is also the largest surviving tomb of it’s type in Ireland.

Wedge tombs are so called because of their shape. They are so named because the burial chamber itself narrows at one end (usually decreasing both in height and width from west to east), producing a wedge shape in elevation. Some of the wedge tombs have a front chamber called an ante-chamber and this is divided by a septal stone from the main chamber in the rear. Other tombs do not have this division.  The side walls usually  have a double wall on either side.  These walls are of large upright stones called orthostats. On top of these orthostats large flat stones are laid to form the roof.  The entire tomb was usually covered with a cairn or mound of stones and this was usually edged with large stones in the ground. The cairns have almost in all cases disappeared due to erosion over the millenia. They are mostly located to the west of a line from Belfast to Cork with a concentration in the west and south. The counties of Clare, Tipperary, Cork, Limerick and Kerry have almost half the entire number. In the northern half of the country there are some differences from tombs in the south that may reflect a different period of building for north and south.

The name comes from the Irish ‘Leaba Chaillí’ meaning ‘The Hag’s Bed’. Legend associates it with the Celtic Hag Goddess ‘Caillech Bhearra’. Interestingly when the tomb was excavated during the 1930’s, the skeletal remains of a woman were found. The skeleton was found inside the tomb but her skull was located in another part of the tomb. This might suggest she was decapitated at the time of death. Fragmentary remains of an adult male and child were also discovered.

From certain angles you could understandably mistake it for little more than a disordered pile of rocks.

Closer examination however reveales the distinctive and obvious wedge shape.

The gallery is aligned WNW-ESE and divided into a 6.2 meter long main chamber and a smaller (0.9 meter long) rear chamber. This two- chambered gallery is surmounted by three massive roofstones. The westernmost of these measures 4.85 meters by 2.45 meters. The middle roofstone measures 3.35 meters long by 1.85 meters wide and the rear (easternmost) is 2.75 meters by 1.8 meters. The gallery is flanked on both sides by an outer wall of huge stones, part of which abuts a modern field wall for the adjoining pasture. The western end of this tomb is a rather confusing mix of great orthostats and prostrate stones, some of which may have formed some type of double facade, but nothing certain can be determined for certain of the design of this western section of the tomb.

Given the size and weight of the tombs I’m sure a lot of manpower was required to construct it. Like large construction projects in modern times, a lot of wealth and influence would have been necessary. This area is near the river Blackwater and known for the fertility of it’s land. It’s not difficult to see what would have attracted prehistoric farmers to the area and allowed the accumulation of wealth necessary to build such a tomb. The river would have also opened up trade routes with other parts of the country and may have even been used for transporting the stones.

The interior of the tomb

From this angle it is possible to see the divisions in the chambers.

More views of the exterior

Here is an excellent illustration of what a wedge tomb may have looked like when originally constructed

This small cairn lies to the south of the tomb

Labbacalle is located right next to the road and is clearly signposted. It is well worth a look if you’re ever in that area. It certainly makes you wonder how well some of our modern constructions will stand the test of time.

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Further Information

On Labbacalle:

http://megalithomania.com/show/site/546/labbacallee_wedge_tomb.htm

http://www.ancientireland.org/labbacallee/index.htm

Folklore on the tomb and the Hag:

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/2374/labbacallee.html#folklore

Irish Prehistoric Tombs:

http://www.ballybegvillage.com/tombs.html

Illustrations of Archaeological Reconstructions:

http://philarm.com

Elizabeth Fort

July 18, 2011

I’m a bit behind on my scheduled updates so my apologies. For this entry I chose a site that will be familiar to anyone who has ever visited Cork. When looking towards the southern half of Cork city centre it is hard to ignore the looming presence of Elizabeth Fort. It is a highly significant site in relation to the military and social history of Cork.

A star shaped fort, it was originally constructed in 1601 on a limestone outcrop overlooking the city, by Sir George Carew, then President of Munster (governor of the province). As was common practice the fort was named after the then reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth I. The Queen had order the construction of star-shaped forts outside the town walls of each major Irish coastal walled town, in particular at Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Cork. This at a time when England was at war with Spain and there were fears of an attempted invasion by the Spanish through Ireland.

The city the fort overlooked would have been much different from today. The medieval walls still stood and the city was still mostly contained within these walls. You can see my last post for a map of Cork in the 1600’s. Barrack street, which is adjacent to the fort, developed into the main southern approach road into the city. The construction of a fortification and army base in such an area is hardly surprising. The original fort was only constructed of timber and earth and in 1603 it was demolished by a group of Cork rebels. This was in refusal by the leading Catholic families to acknowledge the crowing of King James I. Guns were stolen from the fort and brought into the city with the intention of starting an uprising. For a short time, the Catholic mass and liturgy were restored to the churches in the city. However the arrival of Lord Mountjoy, the then Lord Liuetenant of Ireland, put a stop to any uprising and British rule was restored. The people of Cork were eventually forced to rebuild the fort at their own expense. The fort as it currently appears owes much to construction throughout the 1600’s.

During the Williamite War in Ireland in 1690, Cork declared it’s support for the Catholic King James II in opposition to the Dutch Protestant William of Orange. Elizabeth Fort was controlled by the Jacobite forces and managed to hold out for some time during the siege of Cork. Eventually however shots fired from surrounding tall buildings, Red Abbey and St. FinBarre’s Cathedral, led to it’s surrender. The city itself surrendered once it’s eastern walls were breached by cannon fired from Red Abbey.

In 1719 the fort ceased to operate as a purely defensive structure and became a barracks. An additional barracks, known as Cat Barracks, was built nearby. With the construction of a new barracks to the North East of the city (the still existing Collins Barracks), Elizabeth Fort was no longer needed to house troops, at least for the time being. Instead it was converted into a prison for female convicts. It served this function until the late 19th century. It then returned to military use to station the Cork City Artillery Militia.

During the Irish War of Independence the fort was occupied by the Royal Irish Constabulary. With the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 and the end of hostilities, the fort was handed over to the Provisional Irish Government. Like many former British military installations it came under attack from Anti-Treaty IRA forces. The interior buildings of the fort were burned down but the exterior escaped damage. A few years later the Gardaí (Irish police force) took over the fort and continue to use it as a barracks. Tourists are still allowed access to the fort, with occasional markets and festivals held there.

Here is the current entrance to the fort

The lamp above the gateway marks it out as a police station

Information plaque by the gateway

Stairs leading up to the ramparts

Looking down on the houses next to the fort

Walking along the walls

A cannon

With some cannonball stacked nearby

A view of the North Cathedral and Shandon

Looking down on the South Gate Bridge and the former Beamish and Crawford brewery site

A view over the city

The fort wall from the inside. It has since undergone restoration

Recently rebuilt wooden walkway linking the ramparts

A few metres from the fort is Corks oldest licensed pub. Currently known as An Realt Dearg (The Red Star), it used to be known as the Gateway Pub. A pub has been on this site since 1698. Many famous historical figures, including the Duke of Wellington, are reputed to have drunk here at one point.

Elizabeth Fort is open all year around and there is no charge for entry. To the best of my knowledge, with recent renovation work, most of the fort is accessible to the public. It’s worth it just for the fantastic view across the city and to experience a living example of Cork history.

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More information on Elizabeth Fort and 17th century Cork is available on these sites:

http://www.corkpastandpresent.ie/history/historyofcorkcity/1400-1700/corkcity1600-1645/

http://corkheritage.ie/?page_id=313

Triskel Chirstchurch

June 7, 2011

Recently reopened as an entertainment venue, Christchurch in Cork city has had a long and varied history. The current building is an 18th century neoclassical Georgian building which was designed by architect John Coltsman. Coltsman is also notable for designing the South Gate and North Gate bridges in the city.

The present building is preceded by two other churches going back as far as the 11th century. It is possible the original Christchurch was of Hiberno-Norse (Viking) construction dating from c. 1050. The medieval city of Cork was based around two islands connected by bridges and surrounded by a defensive wall of some sort. These two islands formed the main streets, the current North Main Street and South Main Street. Each street had numerous laneways branching off, some of which survive to this day. This gave the medieval city a grid type structure.

With the two islands you also had two parishes, the Holy Trinity or Christchurch and St. Peter’s. St Peter’s survives today as the Cork Vision Centre on North Main Street.

On this map of Cork from 1545 both churches are labelled, as well as giving an idea of how the city was laid out.

After the Anglo-Normans took control of Cork in 1177 Christchurch became the principal parish church, religious centre and civic church of the city, where thanksgiving and celebrations were given by important members of the city such as the Lord Mayor, Corporation, and other city dignitaries. It is likely around this time the second church was built. Over the following centuries many of the leading merchant families who controlled Cork were buried in the crypts underneath the church. Legend has it that the famous English poet Edmund Spenser married Elizabeth Boyle in Christchurch on Midsummer Day, 11 June 1594.

During the Siege of Cork in 1690, 1,300 Protestants were held captive in Christ Church, St Peters, and the Court House. The city fell and the Protestants held captive in the church were released, to be replaced by the Roman Catholics who were then locked up in the Churches. Although the siege lasted only a few days Christchurch was left with severe and irreparable damage. A canon ball fired from Red Abbey passed through the roof, stained glass windows were torn out, and the lead roof dismantled to provide material for bullets. At the east end of the church, where Hopewell tower was situated, a breach was blown in the city wall and tradition has it that gravestones from the churchyard were torn up and used to fill the gaps. It was eventually demolished in 1716 and on St Patrick’s Day, 8 February 1718, the foundation stone for the new church was laid. The church took eight years to build and originally had a 136ft-high tower at its western end. The steeple was initially planned to go to a height of 170ft but started to sink due to unstable foundations and was later reduced further to 100ft until it was completely removed during renovations in 1820.

Christchurch was deconsecrated in 1978 and purchased a year later by Cork City Council to house the Cork Archives Institute. The archives remained there until they were moved to a purpose built archives building in Blackpool on the northside of the city. Christchurch remained empty for a few years until July 2008 when work began to turn it into an entertainment venue as part of the Triskel Arts Centre. On Friday 15 April 2011 Christchurch was officially reopened.

Here are some pictures of the interior

The former church organ

A memorial plaque to a Major Arthur Gibbings

A coat of arms, possible from the chantry college that was attached to the church

Cork is fortunate to have such a fascinating and historic entertainment venue and hopefully it will continue to function as such for many years to come

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Further reading:

http://www.triskelartscentre.ie/christchurch/history.htm

http://corkheritage.ie

http://www.corkpastandpresent.ie/history/historyofcorkcity/

The Queen’s Speech

May 20, 2011

Here are the speeches given by Irish President Mary Mcaleese and British Queen Elizabeth II at Dublin Castle on Wednesday evening

A hUachtarain agus a chairde (president and friends).

Prince Philip and I are delighted to be here and to experience at first-hand Ireland’s world famous hospitality.

Together we have much to celebrate: the ties between our people, the shared values, and the economic, business and cultural links that make us so much more than neighbours, that make us firm friends and equal partners.

Madame President, speaking here in Dublin Castle it is impossible to ignore the weight of history, as it was yesterday when you and I laid wreaths at the Garden of Remembrance.

Indeed, so much of this visit reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation, of being able to bow to the past but not be bound by it.

Of course the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign.

It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.

These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured or their families.

To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past, I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy.

With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.

But it is also true that no-one who looked to the future over the past centuries could have imagined the strength of the bonds that are now in place between the governments and the people of our two nations, the spirit of partnership that we now enjoy, and the lasting rapport between us.

No-one here this evening could doubt that heartfelt desire of our two nations.

Madame President, you have done a great deal to promote this understanding and reconciliation. You set out to build bridges. And I have seen it first-hand, your success in bringing together different communities and traditions on this island. You have also shed new light on the sacrifice of those who served in the First World War. Even as we jointly opened the Messines Peace Park in 1998 it was difficult to look ahead to the time when you and I would be standing together at Islandbridge as we were today.

That transformation is also evident in the establishment of a successful power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland. A knot of history that was painstakingly loosened by the British and Irish governments together with the strength, vision and determination of the political parties in Northern Ireland.

What were once only hopes for the future have now come to pass; it is almost exactly 13 years since the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland and Northern Ireland voted in favour of the agreement signed on Good Friday 1998, paving the way for Northern Ireland to become the exciting and inspirational place that it is today.

I applaud the work of all those involved in the peace process and of all those who support and nurture peace, including members of the police, the gardai and the other emergency services, and those who work in the communities, the churches and charitable bodies like Co-operation Ireland.

Taken together, their work not only serves as the basis for reconciliation between our peoples and communities, but it gives hope to other peacemakers across the world that through sustained effort, peace can and will prevail.

For the world moves on quickly. The challenges of the past have been replaced by new economic challenges which will demand the same imagination and courage.

The lessons from the peace process are clear — whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load. There are other stories written daily across these islands which do not find their voice in solemn pages of history books or newspaper headlines, but which are at the heart of shared narrative. Many British families have

members who live in this country, as many Irish families have close relatives in the United Kingdom.

These families share the two islands; they have visited each other and have come home to each other over the years. They are the ordinary people who yearned for the peace and understanding we now have between our two nations and between the communities within those two nations; a living testament to how much in common we have.

These ties of family, friendship and affection are our most precious resource. They are the lifeblood of the partnership across these islands, a golden thread that runs through all our joint successes so far, and all we will go on to achieve.

They are a reminder that we have much to do together to build a future for all our grandchildren; the kind of future our grandparents could only dream of.

So we celebrate together the widespread spread of goodwill and deep mutual understanding that has served to make the relationship more harmonious, close as good neighbours should always be.

Federal Hall National Memorial

May 16, 2011

I’ve concentrated on local sites my last few posts but I feel it is time to go international. And where better for my first international post than New York, a city with so much rich and fascinating history.

The Federal Hall National Memorial is what I will be writing on this time. Located on Wall Street at the southern tip of Manhattan it has strong connections to the beginnings of New York and the United States.

The current Federal Hall building stands on the site of the New York’s second city hall, which was constructed in 1700. John Peter Zenger, an American newspaper publisher, was arrested for committing libel against the British royal governor and was imprisoned and tried there in 1735. His acquital laid the foundations for freedom of the press as it was defined later by the Bill of Rights.

Respresentatives of the then thirteen colonies met as the Stamp Act Congress here in 1765. This was in opposition to the recent Stamp Act passed by the Parliament of Great Britain without any representation from the colonies.

With the end of the Revolutionary War and the establishment of the United States of America, the Continental Congress met at City Hall in 1787. This was to adopt the Northwest Ordinance, establishing procedures for creating new states. Out of this came Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It also prohibited slavery in these new states. When New York became the first capital of the United States under the new constitution in 1789, City Hall was renamed as Federal Hall.

A view of Federal Hall from 1798

Federal Hall 1798

This bronze statue of George Washington dates from 1882 and was designed by John Quincy Adams Ward

The First Congress met in the now Federal Hall and wrote the Bill of Rights. George Washington was also inaugurated here as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789.

When the capital of the US was moved back to Philadelphia in 1790, the building once again became the headquarters for city government until the building was demolished in 1812. A new City Hall was built at 260 Broadway. The current building to occupy the site was constructed as the Customs House in 1842. In 1862 Customs moved to 55 Wall Street and the building was taken over by the US Sub-Treasury.  Eventually the Federal Reserve Bank replaced the Sub-Treasury system in 1920. That same year a bomb was detonated across the street, in what became known as the Wall Street Bombing. Luckily the building escaped damage. In 1939 it was designated as the Federal Hall Memorial National Historic Site. Since then it has functioned as a free museum under the management of the National Park Services.

A picture of the aftermath of the 1920 bombing

Wall Street Bomb

Some shots of the interior rotunda hall of the memorial

An example of a period printing press. This would have been used for the printing of pamphlets and newspapers. I have already mentioned the case of John Peter Zenger and there is also an exhibit based on the trial and freedom of the press.

The Bill Of Rights, one of the most important documents in American history

Items commemorating George Washington

There is also an exhibition of artefacts belonging to Washington, including the Bible used during his inauguration.

This Bible was printed in London in 1765 and was loaned to Washington by a local Masonic Lodge, St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons. The Bible has also been used in the inaugurations of Presidents Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush (whose 1989 inauguration was in the bicentennial year of George Washington’s). During the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president on January 20, 2009, members of the St. John’s Lodge and the Washington Bible took part in a special ceremony in front of the statue of George Washington on the steps of Federal Hall to honor the momentous occasion.

A portrait of Alexander Hamilton.

Alexander Hamilton served as the first United States Secretary of the Treasury and was also aide-de-camp to Washington during the Revolutionary War. He is credited for having a significant impact on the design of the new American government and it’s constitution.

This is a fragment of the balcony on which George Washington stood during his inauguration.

When the original Federal Hall was demolished a few fragments were preserved. This large brownstone section of the balcony floor upon which George Washington stood was removed to the grounds of Bellevue Hospital, where it was on exhibition for many years. In 1889, the stone was returned to its original site and displayed at what was then the U. S. Subtreasury building (now Federal Hall National Memorial) for the commemoration of the centennial of Washington’s inauguration. It was also covered with a thin skim of cement in order for the inscription to be applied. Although currently on display in the rotunda, it has been moved around Federal Hall several times. This is where the crack came from, which allows the visitor to get a glimpse of the original stone underneath the layer of cement.

The Federal Hall National Memorial is free for members of the public and open all year around from 9am to 5pm. If you are in Lower Manhattan it is definitely worth checking out, especially if you are on Wall Street. It is a fantastic insight into American history.

More information is available here: http://www.nps.gov/feha/