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The Second Bank of the United States

Updated on December 6, 2013
Second Bank Facade Facing Walnut Street
Second Bank Facade Facing Walnut Street

The Olde City Philadelphia possesses, in addition to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Carpenter's Hall, a fine example of Greek Revival architecture, the Second Bank of the United States. It was designed by the famous architect, William Strickland, and built between 1819 and 1824.

A portrait of Andrew Jackson (top) and a bust of Nicholas Biddle (above) appear together in a separate chamber of the gallery.
A portrait of Andrew Jackson (top) and a bust of Nicholas Biddle (above) appear together in a separate chamber of the gallery.

A Bank Only Briefly

This second bank was an influential financial institution until President Andrew Jackson's administration. Jackson vetoed the bill to renew its charter because of his disagreement with Nicholas Biddle, the bank's president.

Nicholas Biddle, of course, expressed his function in positive terms. He once wrote that he and the bank's directors were, "Charged by Congress with duties of great importance to the country" (James Parton, Life of Andrew Jackson, III, 266). Nevertheless, Jackson's veto prevailed and the Second Bank of the United States ceased its banking operations.

After the veto, the building continued in a public role more locally in Philadelphia society. A second banking institution took up residence under a strictly Pennsylvania charter. After this, the edifice served as Philadelphia's custom house from 1845 to 1935.

Statue of George Washington
Statue of George Washington

From Banking to Art

Today the building houses an excellent portrait gallery with a collection of art called "People of Independence." The collection presents principally the work of Charles Willson Peale. Artistic images of a variety of colonial and early national figures are on display. Chief among them, of course, is George Washington, who is represented both in painting and in a statue near the Chestnut Street entrance.

A map locating the building and a link to the National Park Service website entry on the Second Bank are provided below.

A
Second Bank of the United States:
420 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA

get directions

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