One of America's most iconic but oft forgotten monuments is getting much needed repair work to restore it back to its former glory. American Express has made a grant of $300,000 to restore and repoint the deteriorating steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial, located on Wall Street. In coordination with the grant, the National Trust for Historic Preservation declared the building as one of the country's National Treasures, placing it in an elite club of buildings and monuments nationwide including the New York State Pavilion in Queens, and the Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village.
The Trust's National Treasures program is meant to highlight buildings throughout the country that have major historic significance, but are now in need of funds and restoration work to ensure their preservation.
"Federal Hall matters to our history, our culture, our understanding of our country, and to the past, present and future of Wall Street," Stephanie K. Meeks, the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation told Curbed. "The timeless democratic principles and capitalist economic ideals rooted in Federal Hall's rich history are as fervently debated and resonant today as ever before."
The announcement for the restoration efforts was made on Wednesday at a press conference held at Federal Hall. At the event, Meeks also announced that the Trust would make a large scale effort to raise public awareness about Federal Hall as the restoration work commences. The Trust hopes that American Express' contribution will encourage other groups to come forward and contribute to Federal Hall's ongoing needs and to other historic buildings in need of preservation.
The Federal Hall restoration effort is a partnership that apart from the Trust and American Express also includes the National Park Service, which is in charge of running the building today, and the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy.
Federal Hall has a storied past having served as the first Capitol building of the country, as well as being the place where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the country. The structure was built in 1700 and first served as New York's City Hall. The Bill of Rights was first introduced at Federal Hall when it served at the Capitol. It was demolished in 1812, almost a decade after the Capitol had moved, and served as the house of New York City government at the time. The structure as it is today was built in 1842 and served as a Custom House and a sub-treasury in subsequent years. It was declared a national memorial in 1955, and presently serves as a museum on American history.
American Express previously made a contribution of $75,000 for restoration work on the statue of George Washington at the front of the building in 2012. As part of its philanthropic efforts American Express has contributed $7 million over the years to National Treasure sites throughout the country.
"American Express is committed to preserving historic treasures and ensuring their relevance for future generations," Timothy J. McClimon, the president of the American Express Foundation told Curbed. "Federal Hall is the home of many key American milestones and represents a significant era for downtown Manhattan. American Express was founded on the same street as Federal Hall, 165 years ago, and we are proud to support the restoration of a monument that is valuable to the history of our city and country."