The President's House memorial project, long anticipated and much debated and delayed, received formal sanction from the Nutter administration yesterday afternoon at a blistering-hot news conference held at Sixth and Market Streets.
"We've been anticipating this event for a long time," Mayor Nutter told a small crowd and a platform full of federal and local officials and community leaders.
"We are very excited."
Specifically, Nutter said he would be chairing a major fund-raising event — the first in a series slated to fully fund the project — set for Tuesday at the National Constitution Center.
The city has allocated $3.5 million for a memorial commemorating the house where George Washington and John Adams created the American presidency in the 1790s and where Washington held nine Africans in bondage.
The federal government has allocated $3.6 million.
About $1.4 million in construction funding needs to be raised, and officials are also seeking to seed an endowment to cover maintenance and programming at the site, located at the doorstep of the Liberty Bell Center.
Democratic U.S. Reps. Robert A. Brady and Chaka Fattah attended yesterday's event.
Fattah said he did not believe "a more significant project is going to be built" that would show "the challenges confronting the nation."
An archaeological excavation last summer drew 300,000 visitors to the site, where the world of slaves and the world of the most powerful could be seen in the building remains uncovered by the dig. (The house was demolished in 1832.)
Brady said he brought his two granddaughters to see the excavation a year ago.
"They couldn't understand about slavery. They couldn't understand how people could own people," Brady recalled. "Right then and there I realized . . . this story had to be told."
Construction on the memorial could start within a year, officials said, with completion in 2010.