For Immediate Release
|Contact:||Joe Grace, 215-686-6210|
|Roz McPherson, 856-261-4023|
|Frances Delmar, 215-597-7128 (INHP)|
Research "Dig" to Precede Final Installation
PHILADELPHIA — Mayor John F. Street and Independence National Historical Park (INHP) Superintendent Dennis Reidenbach today announced the six semi-finalist teams that will be invited to submit proposals for an outdoor installation on Independence Mall commemorating the President's House and the long-obscured story of the enslaved Africans who lived and worked there. The winning team will be expected to design, fabricate, and install the exhibit.
Mayor Street and Superintendent Reidenbach also announced that before the commemoration is installed, there will be an archeological research "dig" to determine whether any artifacts or information relating to the President's House era may still be in the ground.
"We've reached an extraordinarily important milepost today," Mayor Street's Chief of Staff Joyce Wilkerson observed. Wilkerson serves on the President's House Oversight Committee, which is comprised principally of representatives of advocacy groups that petitioned for this project. "We now have in place six tremendously talented teams, each of which has the potential to develop an unforgettable experience on the threshold of the Liberty Bell." "And since we have committed to a research dig," Wilkerson continued, "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."
From 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia was the new nation's capital city, Presidents George Washington and John Adams lived and worked in the President's House, a mansion immediately adjacent to the present location of the Liberty Bell Center. The documented fact is that at least nine enslaved Africans kept by George Washington also lived and toiled in the President's House, which was torn down long ago.
Upon completion, the new, permanent outdoor installation will commemorate the President's House story — a story of achievement and infamy, of the birth of a free nation and indefensible slavery existing side-by-side.
Reflecting a mix of national and local firms with outstanding credentials, the lead firms of the six semi-finalists are:
Each semi-finalist also identified additional team partners (see list below) in order to have all of the components required to complete the entire project.
All told, 21 teams representing more than 100 firms and individuals responded to a formal Request for Qualifications that was issued this past September and distributed locally and nationally to a wide audience of potential applicants. The Mayor and Superintendent Reidenbach agreed upon the semi-finalists after reviewing comments from the Oversight Committee, the City's Capital Program Office, and the Chief of INHP's Division of Cultural Resources Management.
Today's announcement marks the beginning of the design process, and the public will have multiple opportunities to advise and comment as the process moves forward. All six semi-finalists will attend a public meeting later 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 website, where visitors will be able to comment directly.
Full funding for the project, which has a target completion date of July 4, 2007, has been identified: Mayor Street initially pledged $1.5 million in City funds to jumpstart the project, and Congressman Chaka Fattah, joined by Congressman Robert Brady, recently announced a multi-year federal grant of $3.6 million.
Mayor Street and Superintendent Reidenbach have also authorized a research "dig" on approximately 45% of the previously unexcavated yard areas on the President's House site — those areas most likely to yield positive results. The odds of a significant discovery are not high, but as Superintendent Reidenbach explained, "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." The City and INHP will work closely with the School District of Philadelphia to make this dig an exciting learning opportunity for young people.
Interested citizens seeking to comment on the President's House Project may visit the City's website at http://www.phila.gov/presidentshouse. Written comments and questions may also be submitted to James Lowe, Capital Program Office, City of Philadelphia, 1515 Arch St., 11th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102-1677.