A lot of people might think of Federal Hall as that place Occupy Wall Street used to hang around, or that place where Bane made his last stand against the Batman. But Federal Hall Memorial National Historic Site, which was opened to the public as part of the Open House New York weekend, has a much richer history that goes far beyond the famed battle for the soul of Gotham City.

Federal Hall, located at 26 Wall Street in the heart of the Financial District, was first built in the early 1700s to serve as NYC's second city hall (it was built by the British, who used material from the demolished wall of Wall Street). A few years after the American Revolution, it was gutted, redesigned, and retooled to serve as the first capitol building in the newly-formed country. The newly-renamed Federal Hall became the site of George Washington's inauguration as the first president—you can see the bible on which Washington took his inaugural oath up above.

Appropriately, the Associated Press is currently presenting a photo exhibit about the presidents in the main room of the Hall; there is also a room dedicated to celebrating the National Parks' 100th anniversary, and one in which models of the various iterations of Federal Hall are displayed. During the OHNY weekend, there were two shows daily where actors portraying Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton debated "behind closed doors" as members of the first presidential cabinet.

Some other fun historical facts about the deep currents of history running through Federal Hall's marble corridors:

  • The initial City Hall building played host to the Stamp Act Congress, which assembled in October 1765 to protest "taxation without representation."
  • The first United States Congress met here from 1789-1790, and the Bill of Rights was ratified here.
  • In case it's not clear by now, Federal Hall went through many different permutations over the last 200+ years. The current structure on the site was initially built as a Customs House in 1842. It was modeled after the Greek Parthenon.
  • In 1862, Customs moved to 55 Wall Street, and the building became the US Sub-Treasury, where million of dollars in gold and silver were kept in basement vaults (until the Federal Reserve Bank replaced it in 1920). That basement, which you can see in a few photos above, still has huge round columns and a low ceiling, and in the words of photographer Sai Mokhtari, it looks like "like something out of a futuristic throwback movie."
  • In 1882, John Quincy Adams Ward's bronze George Washington statue was erected on its front steps to commemorate the inauguration.
  • In 1920, a bomb was detonated by unknown perpetrators across the street from Federal Hall at 23 Wall Street, killing 38 people and injuring over 400 more. This became known as the Wall Street Bombing.
  • The building was finally given its full title (Federal Hall Memorial National Historic Site) on May 26, 1939, and then re-designated a national memorial on August 11, 1955.
  • Almost a year after 9/11, 300 members of Congress convened at Federal Hall as a symbolic show of support for the city. It marked the first meeting there by Congress since 1790.
  • In 2004, the site was closed for renovations after the collapse of the World Trade Center weakened the foundations of the building. It reopened on June 8, 2008.
  • In 2012, the NYPD and the U.S. Parks Service divided the front steps in half, with one side absurdly designated as a sort of "protest cage" for Occupy Wall Street.

Click through to check out all the photos of the site, and learn more information about visiting it here.