American History Podcasts

New York City and the Inauguration of George Washington

PODCAST Part One of our two-part series on New York City in the years following the Revolutionary War.

The story of New York City’s role in the birth of American government is sometimes forgotten. Most of the buildings important to the first U.S. Congress, which met here from the spring of 1789 to the late summer of 1790, have long been demolished. There’s little to remind us that our modern form of government was, in part, invented here on these city streets.

Related: Listen to Part Two of the series here.

Riding high on the victories of the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers organized a makeshift Congress under the Articles of Confederation. After an unfortunate crisis in Philadelphia, that early group of politicians from the 13 states eventually drifted up to New York (specifically to New York’s City Hall, to be called Federal Hall) to meet. But they were an organization without much power or respect.

The fate of the young nation lay on the shoulders of George Washington who arrived in New York in the spring of 1789 to be inaugurated as the first president of the United States. His swearing-in would finally unite Americans around their government and would imbue the port city of New York with a new urgency.

This is Part One of a two part celebration of these years, featuring cantankerous vice presidents, festive cannonades, and burning plumage! (Part Two arrives in two weeks.)

FEATURING Washington, Adams, Madison, Livingston and, of course, HAMILTON!

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The signing of the Constitution, September 17, 1787.

George traveling to his inauguration, as depicted in the 1896 book “The Century book of famous Americans : the story of a young people’s pilgrimage to historic homes”

Internet Archive Book Images

And from an 1889 illustration:

Courtesy NYPL

President-Elect Washington crosses floating bridge (Gray’s Ferry) — and through one of many triumphal arches — on his inaugural journey, Philadelphia, April 20, 1789


Washington’s reception on the bridge of Trenton in 1789 on his way to be inaugurated 1st president of the U. S.


An illustration from 1855 depicts Old City Hall before it was renovated to house the new federal government.

Another view, with Washington’s six-horse coach in the foreground.


A depiction of Broad Street and Federal Hall as it looked in 1797, but you can easily picture how filled the streets would have been on Washington’s inauguration just eight years earlier.


Here’s how it looked on the 2008 HBO mini-series John Adams:

From an 1899 oil painting (artist unknown)

The presidential mansion on Cherry Street:


The lovely Richmond Hill, the vice presidential mansion home of John and Abigail Adams

St. Paul’s Chapel, where Washington worshipped in New York.  More information at Trinity’s website.

4 replies on “New York City and the Inauguration of George Washington”

Thanks for keeping NYC history alive and interesting! In this episode, it’s mentioned around 4:40-4:50 that the Continental Army delivered a crushing defeat to the British in the “Battle of Yorkville” in 1782. This should be the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. I think it would also be appropriate to mention that the French played a very significant role (on land and by sea) in this victory against the British that helped lead to the treaty negotiations to end the war. Perhaps a quick correction can be mentioned in Part 2 of this episode for this important detail?

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