The chamber in Independence Hall where both the Declaration and Constitution were signed is a must-visit.  But, the spot where our government truly became the model of modern democracy is around the corner, in a building skipped by most visitors. Congress Hall was the first home of the Senate and House of Representatives and the ground floor chamber is where President John Adams took the oath of office – the first modern, peaceful transition of power from one elected citizen to another.

George Washington could have continued as president for life.  There was nothing in the Constitution to stop him, and after 2 terms he was still enormously popular.  However, he was done with politics and wanted to return to his farm in Virginia, so he refused to run for a third term.  It was in this room that John Adams was sworn in as America’s second president. After taking the oath of office, Adams stepped aside to allow Washington to leave the building.  Washington, aware of the historic significance of the moment, indicated Adams should go first.  Adams was now president, while Washington was simply a private citizen.  Adams led, followed by new Vice President Thomas Jefferson, while Washington followed behind.

Even with all the turmoil and craziness of politics, this peaceful transition of power has continued 43 times since this historic moment.

Like all of Independence Park, visiting Congress Hall is FREE. No ticket is required for entrance.  Check the daily schedule for opening/tour times.

Tobey says: The tour here is quick, so it’ s not too bad for a history lesson.