World Heritage Sites in Philadelphia


Independence Hall

Independence Hall is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It forms part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.

Credit: Photo by B. Krist for GPTMC

Statement of Significance

The Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776 in this fine 18th century building in Philadelphia, to be followed in 1787 by the framing of the Constitution of the United States of America. Although conceived in a national framework and hence of fundamental importance to American history, the universal principles of freedom and democracy set forth in these documents were to have a profound impact on lawmakers and political thinkers around the world. They became the models for similar charters of other nations, and may justly be considered to have heralded the modern era of government.

Criterion (vi) The universal principles of the right to revolution and self-government as expressed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence (1776) and Constitution (1787), which were debated, adopted, and signed in Independence Hall, have profoundly influenced lawmakers and politicians around the world. The fundamental concepts, format, and even substantive elements of the two documents have influenced governmental charters in many nations and even the United Nations Charter.

Long Description

Independence Hall in Philadelphia may be considered the birthplace of the United States of America: it was here that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the Articles of Confederation uniting the 13 colonies were ratified in 1781, and the Constitution setting out the nation's basic laws was adopted in 1787, after George Washington had presided over the debate, which ran from May to September.

The building was designed by Andrew Hamilton to house the Assembly of the Commonwealth (colony) of Pennsylvania. Finished in 1753, it is a modest brick structure with a steeple that was intended to hold a 2,080 lb (943 kg) bell. The bell, however, has cracked twice and stands silently on the ground in a special shelter (a reproduction now hangs in the steeple). Independence Hall is important not for its architectural design but for the documents of fundamental importance to American history drafted and debated here that formed the democracy of the United States.

The building has undergone many restorations, notably by Greek revival architect John Haviland in 1830, and by a committee from the National Park Service in 1950, returning it to its 1776 appearance. The universal principles of freedom and democracy have also had a profound impact on lawmakers around the world.

Independence National Historical Park, located in downtown Philadelphia ('Centre City'), interprets events and the lives of the diverse population during the years when the city was the capital of the United States, from 1790 to 1800. A section of the park where Benjamin Franklin's home once stood is dedicated to teaching about his life and accomplishments. Spanning approximately 18 ha, the park has about 20 buildings open to the public.



World Heritage Way

Walnut Street between 5th and 6th streets has been officially renamed ‘World Heritage Way’ by Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Councilman Mark Squilla on September 8th 2014, in recognition of the presence of Independence Hall, a World Heritage Site, and in celebration of the Organization of World Heritage Cities’ Solidarity Day of the World Heritage Cities, an event that happens annually on this date.