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IHA Letter to Park Superintendent Martha B. Aikens

The following letter was sent by the Board of the Independence Hall Association, the citizens advisory organization which is named in the Park's enabling legislation to Park Service Superintendent Martha Aikens. Her response is here.

Independence Hall Association

Aug 15, 2001

TO: Martha Aikens
FROM: IHA Board
RE: Executive Mansion/Executive Branch

Visitors to the Park can presently see where the Congress met and the Supreme Court convened, however the Executive Branch has been missing until now. The construction of the new home for the Liberty Bell offers the Park the unique and exciting opportunity to create a complete and balanced picture of our government by including all three branches.

The building at "190 High Street" became the Executive Mansion when President Washington moved in. It served as a home and office for the first two US Presidents for ten years, from 1790 to 1800, until the government moved to Capital City, now Washington, DC. This is an important part of U.S. history and an exciting one to envision as a new part of INHP's overall experience.

It's our understanding that much of the Executive Mansion is currently covered by the INHP Ladies Rest Room. This toilet is slated for removal so a walkway to the Liberty Bell Pavilion can be built. We propose that as construction continues, the foundation/outline of the Executive Mansion not be obscured again, but marked with a paved outline. We envision it marked by a floor plan of stone, similar to Franklin's house, identifying where the individual rooms and walls once stood.

A floor plan laid in stone within the pavement would not interfere with foot traffic and would commemorate the building where our first Presidents lived at the beginning of this nation and during Philadelphia's prominence as the Capital of the United States. This floor plan would also provide opportunities for interpretation around the lives of the early Presidents and show their proximity to the seat of Government in a way that would be unique, immediate and convincing to visitors.

The visitors' experience would be enhanced by encouraging imaginative moments where they could "see" themselves in Washington's living room overlooking Independence Hall.

The design currently under consideration by the Park has a stated treatment of the Executive Mansion, however it does not convey equal importance to all three branches of government. We see that our plan furthers not only U.S. civic education, but the Park's legislative intent and mission. We will better serve the public, new democracies, and future generations if the third branch of government is put into proper prospective during the Park's next phase. We ask that our proposal become part of the new Park plan before construction continues.

Independence Hall Association, in its unique relationship to INHP, will assist in underwriting the creation of this floor plan and provide interpretive materials to the Park Service. We will also assist as we can in whatever research is necessary to ensure the Executive Mansion is represented accurately.

We look forward to working with you in adding this historical marker to the work currently underway in the park.

cc: Hon. Gale Norton
Fran Mainella
Marie Rust
Dennis Reidenbach
Christopher Schillizzi
Hon. Arlen Specter
Hon. Rick Santorum
Hon. Robert Brady
Hon. Tom Ridge
Hon. Vince Fumo
Hon. John F. Street
Hon. Frank DiCicco

Read Martha Aikens's response

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