Sometimes, you are just in the right place at the right time. After a bagged lunch at Philadelphia’s most amazing hidden art treasure, we walked across the street to Independence Square. Tickets are required for a tour of Independence Hall, but not to visit the other buildings. After passing through security, our first stop was the Great Essentials exhibit which houses a copy of the Declaration of Independence:
and a final rough draft of the Constitution, including a correction (supposedly) made by George Washington:
Our final stop was Congress Hall, the building that housed the U.S. Congress from 1790-1800. I hadn’t realized that this was where John Adams took the oath of office.
After sitting us the in the chairs used by the New Jersey Congressmen (we are from NJ), the park ranger related this story:
Although many encouraged George Washington to continue as President, he felt two terms was enough for one man and wanted to return to farming. After the election, John Adams took the oath of office as the new president of the United States here in Congress Hall, making it the first time in modern history that power was peacefully transferred between two common citizens. Afterward, as they got ready to leave, Adams stepped aside at the door to allow Washington to go through first. But Washington was well aware of the historic significance of the moment. He stopped and asked Adams to leave first. After all, he said, Adams was now president of the United States, and Washington was now just a private citizen. Adams led, followed by Jefferson (the new vice president), while Washington went last.
It was amazing to realize that we were sitting right where this extraordinary event took place – the day before our country would again, even in the current political climate, experience this peaceful transition of power for the 44th time.
Oh yeah: the hidden art treasure is located in the lobby of the Curtis Publishing Building:
Designed by hometown artist Maxfield Parrish, the Dream Garden was created in 1916 by Louis Comfort Tiffany out of more than 100,000 pieces of glass. The best part? It’s free and there is a bench across the lobby where you can eat your lunch.