Submitted designs will mark the home of George Washington and his slaves at Sixth and Market.
A sheaf of design teams has been selected to submit proposals for a commemoration of the nation's first "White House" and the slaves who lived and toiled there during the administration of George Washington.
The memorial, mandated by Congress, will be located on the site once occupied by the house, Sixth and Market Streets, directly in front of the Liberty Bell Center.
City and Independence National Historical Park officials said an extensive archaeological exploration of the area would precede any construction. The house served as home to Washington during his presidency. He brought at least nine slaves to Philadelphia from his Mount Vernon plantation.
Washington's successor, John Adams, also lived in the house for three years. In 1800 the nation's capital moved to newly constructed Washington. Adams opposed slavery in all forms.
The house where the two presidents lived was torn down in 1832, but a part of it remained standing until it was torn down to create Independence Mall in the early 1950s.
Because of rebuilding over the years, the excavation is not expected to produce any extraordinary findings, officials said.
"Given a core theme of this project — to disclose fully the history of this site and to tell its forgotten truth — we have a responsibility to resolve any lingering questions people may have," said Dennis Reidenbach, park superintendent. He added that the city and park planned to work with the School District of Philadelphia to ensure that the dig became a learning opportunity for area students.
The principal design teams are: Amaze Design Inc. of Boston; Davis Buckley, Architects & Planning Consultants of Washington; dommertphillips pc; Wells Appel Land Strategies, and Nason Construction Inc. of Philadelphia, Ewing Cole of Philadelphia, Howard + Revis Design of Washington, and Kelly/Maiello, Architects & Planners Inc. of Philadelphia.
Each of the firms has also brought in additional partners and consultants. The city, which has committed $1.5 million to the project, is overseeing the design process.
City officials said 21 teams representing more than 100 firms and individuals responded to the request for qualifications issued in September. The selected ones were agreed upon by both the city and park.
The teams will attend a public meeting this spring. Thereafter, all teams will submit three-dimensional models of their preliminary designs, to be placed on public display for citizen comment. Each team's proposed design will be posted on the city's Web site, www.phila.gov, where visitors will be able to comment directly.
"We've reached an extraordinarily important milepost today," said Joyce Wilkerson, Mayor Street's chief of staff. She serves on the President's House Oversight Committee, which is largely made up of advocacy groups that petitioned for the project. "And since we have committed to a research dig, we also know that if there is something in the ground that can add to the truth of this place — we're going to discover it."