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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: May 28, 2003
Byline: Stephan Salisbury

Razing the 'most historic bathroom'

A restroom, built in 1954 on the site of the President's House, is being demolished.

It's not often that archaeologists, historians, reporters and photographers gather to watch a rumbling yellow track hoe demolish a bathroom.

Then again, it's not every day that a red-brick john is built on the spot where the nation's first White House once stood.

But this is Philadelphia, and so yesterday morning at 7, when the first bricks were ripped from the women's restroom near the southeast corner of Sixth and Market Streets, cameras clicked and note was taken.

"It's the most historic bathroom in America," said historian Edward Lawler Jr., as he watched a mammoth steel claw crack down on the bathroom roof. "It's a shame that when they built Independence Mall they didn't understand where the President's House had been and that some of its original walls were still standing."

The house where Washington and Adams lived when Philadelphia was the nation's capitol - 1790 to 1800 - was demolished in 1832. Its side walls and foundation remained, however, until construction of Independence Mall began in 1951. The last of the house was torn down at that time.

In 1954, the state of Pennsylvania, creator of the mall and what is now Independence National Historical Park, erected a bathroom on the spot.

It took about three hours to take down the restroom superstructure yesterday. Later this week, the concrete floor will be removed and the basement will be emptied.

"We'll be monitoring demolition of the restroom... just to make sure the demolition doesn't impact any remains of the President's House that might have survived," said Jed Levin, an archaeologist with the National Park Service.

 

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