The First Bank of the United States is currently closed to the public, but its compelling history and stunning exterior continue to draw observers from all over the world.
The First Bank of the United States opened in 1797, as the brainchild of Alexander Hamilton, who was Secretary of the Treasury after the Revolutionary War. Chartering the Bank was a major Congressional move toward a firm financial foundation for the new nation. However, arguments over the federal role in banking ignited the first debates over the strict versus expansive interpretations of the Constitution.
The First Bank served the nation until 1811, when the its charter was not renewed. At that time, Stephen Girard purchased the building and its furnishings, and opened his own bank, Girard's Bank, which became the principal source of government credit during the War of 1812.
In 1816, President James Madison signed a bill establishing the Second Bank of the United States.