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Copyright © 2006 by Open Horizons and John Kremer
Last modified: 02/11/06

Hot Times, Cool Places

Capitals of the United States

Jamestown, Virginia

Jamestown was the first white settlement in Virginia and capital of the Virginia colony from 1607 to 1699. It was also the meeting place of America's first legislative assembly in July, 1619.

Address: Jamestown Settlement, Route 31 and Colonial Parkway, P O Box 1607, Williamsburg VA 23187-1607; 757-253-4838; 888-593-4682; Fax: 757-253-5299. Web:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From September 5, 1774 to October 26, 1774, Carpenter's Hall served as the U.S. capital under the First Continental Congress. Carpenters' Hall has also served as the headquarters of the First Bank of the United States, the Bank of the State of Pennsylvania, United States Custom House, Franklin Institute, Society of Friends, the United States Law Office, the Apprentice's Free Library, the Second Bank of the United States, and the Philadelphia Auction Market.

From May 10, 1775 to December 12, 1776, the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) served as the U.S. capital under the Second Continental Congress. It was during this time that the Declaration of Independence was written and signed.

From March 4, 1777 to September 18, 1777 the State House again served as the U.S. capital under the Second Continental Congress.

And, again, from July 2, 1778 to March 1, 1781, the State House served as the U.S. capital under the Second Continental Congress.

From March 1, 1781 to June 21, 1783, the State House served as the U.S. Capital under the Articles of Confederation.

Address: Independence Hall,
Independence National Historic Park, Independence Mall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106; 215-965-2305; Fax: 215-597-1548.

From December 6, 1790 to May 14, 1800, the U.S. capital was located in Philadelphia at Congress Hall (later the Philadelphia County Building). The House of Representatives met on the first floor of Congress Hall, while the Senate met on the second floor. Hence the term upper house for the Senate.

Address: Congress Hall, Independence National Historic Park, Independence Mall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106; 215-965-2305; Fax: 215-597-1548. Web:

Baltimore, Maryland

On December 12, 1776, the Second Continental Congress left Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to avoid the British advance and went to Baltimore.

From December 20, 1776 to February 27, 1777, the U.S. capital was located at Henry Fite’s House, which later became known as Old Congress Hall. Henry Fite, a wealthy German immigrant (known originally as Heinrich Vogt) had built a three-story brick house on Market Street in 1770. On December 27, 1776, in his home, the Continental Congress conferred upon General Washington extraordinary powers for the conduct of the Revolutionary War.

Address: Baltimore Convention and Visitors Association, 100 Light Street, 12th Floor, Baltimore, Maryland 21202; 410-659-7071; 877-Baltimore. Web:

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

On September 27, 1777, for one day only, the Second Continental Congress met at the Court House in Lancaster. That court house no longer exists.

Lancaster, the oldest inland city in the U.S., also served as the state capital of Pennsylvania from 1799 to 1812.

Contact: Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau, 501 Greenfield Road, Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17601; 800-PADUTCH; Fax: 717-299-0470. Email:

York, Pennsylvania

During the American Revolution, the Second Continental Congress had to meet in the Court House on Centre Square at York, Pennsylvania, in order to avoid British forces who had captured Philadelphia. York thus acted as the capital of the U.S. from September 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778.

During this time, the Articles of Confederation were drafted.

Address: York County Visitors Bureau, 1425 Eden Road, York, Pennsylvania 17402; 717-852-6006; 888-858-9675. Email: Web:

Princeton, New Jersey

Nassau Hall in 1764 (above) and 1874 (below).

Address: Nassau Hall, Office of the President,
1 Nassau Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544; 609-258-6100; Fax: 609-258-1615. Web:

In June 1783 a number of soldiers of the Pennsylvania Line, exasperated by delays in settling their claims, set out for Philadelphia to lay the matter before their elected leaders. Panic-stricken, the members of Congress moved to Princeton, New Jersey.

The Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation met from June 30, 1783 to November 4, 1783 at Prospect House and Nassau Hall (in the library on the second floor), both on the campus of Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey.

Above: The Prospect House which replaced the colonial-era home of Colonel George Morgan, where the Continental Congress met for a time. The above structure serves as a private dining club for Princeton University staff and faculty.

Address: Prospect House, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544; 609-258-3455; Fax: 609-258-1273 Email: Web:

Annapolis, Maryland

Home of America's oldest state house in continuous legislative use (cornerstone laid on March 28, 1772), Annapolis was the United States capital under the Articles of Confederation from November 26, 1783 to August 19, 1784.

The Maryland State House served as the first peacetime capital of the United States. In addition, it was the only state house ever to have served as the nation's capital.

On December 23, 1783, at the state house, George Washington resigned his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army. Three weeks later on January 14, 1784, Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War.

The state house building is topped the largest wooden dome built without nails in America.

Address: Maryland State House, 91 State Circle, Annapolis MD 21401; 410-974-3400.

Trenton, New Jersey

The U.S. Congress under the Articles of Confederation met here at the French Arms Tavern in Trenton, New Jersey from November 1, 1784 to December 24, 1784. The Tavern, the largest building in the city at the time, was located at the corner of King and Second streets (now known as the corner of Warren and State streets).

Trenton was also the top choice for being selected as the permanent U.S. capital, but it lost out when the Southern states held out for a capital closer to the South on the Potomac River rather than the Delaware River where Trenton was located.

During John Adams's term of office, the second president took an apartment in Trenton and conducted much of the nation's business from there. His apartment was located near the current streets of Warren and West Hanover.

Address: Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce, 214 W. State Street, Trenton,
New Jersey 08608; 609-393-4143; Fax: 609-
393-1032. Email:


New York, New York:
Old City Hall, 1765

In 1765, delegates from nine colonies (the Stamp Act Congress) drew up a declaration of rights while meeting at the Old City Hall in New York City (later called Federal Hall). Built in 1700, the City Hall was located at the corner of Wall and Nassau streets.

Address: Federal Hall National Monument, 26 Wall Street, New York, New York 10005; 212-825-6990; visitor info: 212-825-6888; Fax: 212-825-6874. Web:

New York, New York:
Old City Hall, 1785 to 1788

From January 11, 1785 to September, 1788, the U.S. Congress under the Articles of Confederation met at Old City Hall (later called Federal Hall) and then Fraunces Tavern in New York City.

At Old City Hall, Congress adopted the Northwest Ordinance in 1787.

New York, New York:
Fraunces Tavern, 1788

Fraunces Tavern, built in 1725 as the home of Etienne de Lancey, is one of the oldest buildings in New York. Bought by Samuel Fraunces in 1762, it became a popular tavern. In 1768, the New York Chamber of Commerce was organized there. Before and during the Revolutionary War, Fraunces also hosted many meetings of the local Sons of Liberty.

General George Washington had his headquarters there after the British evacuated New York and, on December 4, 1783, he said his farewell to his officers.

The Tavern served as the U.S. capital for a time during 1788. The tavern is now a noted restaurant

Address: Fraunces Tavern, 54 Pearl Street, New York, New York 10004-2429; 212-968-1776; Fax: 212-797-1776. Second floor museum phone: 212-425-1778. Web:

New York, New York:
Federal Hall, 1789 to 1790

From March 4, 1789 to August 12, 1790, Federal Hall in New York City served as the capital of the U.S. under the U.S. Constitution. On April 30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated here as the first U.S. president. The first Congress met here in 1789 under the new U.S. Constitution.

Federal Hall was demolished in 1812. The current structure on the site (see above) was built as the Customs House in 1842 and later used as a Sub-Treasury building until 1920. The Federal Hall Memorial National Historic Site was declared on May 26, 1939. It became a National Memorial site on August 11, 1955.

Washington, DC

Washington, DC, has been the U.S. capital for most of the life of the country, except for a few emergency sessions elsewhere.

On June 10, 1793, the capital of the United States was voted to be seated in Washington, DC. Only after the building of the necessary buildings, roads, and other infrastructure did the U.S. government officially move to the District of Columbia on November 17, 1800.

Address: U.S. Capitol, Capitol Hill, Washington, District of Columbia 20515; 202-225-6827.

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