Philadelphia Facts: The Old Supreme Court

August 1, 2012

Where did Chief Justice John Jay preside over the U.S. Supreme Court? Answer: Old City Hall at 5th and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia. From 1791-1800 the Supreme Court was convened in the Metropolis of America's founding while the new Federal City was being built on the banks of the Potomac River. To accommodate the Court, Philadelphia shared its City Hall on the east flank of the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall). Initially the Supreme Court was comprised of Chief Justice Jay and five Associate Justices, the finest legal minds in America, but the Court enjoyed neither the prestige nor the power that it does today. Yet while in Philadelphia the first Court had it's own building, which is more than what awaited it in the Federal City. There it was housed in a basement room of the new Capitol.

The John Jay Institute is further evidence of an intellectual renaissance in constitutional studies. America's first Chief Justice is well-honored by an organization committed to perpetuating virtue, public spirit, and intelligence in the future leaders of the republic. My expectations for its alumni are high."
The Honorable Edwin Meese, III
Former United States Attorney General
Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy, The Heritage Foundation