City of Philadelphia and Independence National Historical Park
John F. Street, Mayor, City of Philadelphia
Dennis Reidenbach, Superintendent, Independence National Historical Park
CONTACT: Ted Qualli, 215-686-6210
Roz McPherson, 856-261-4023
Jane Cowley, 215-597-0060 (INHP)
For Immediate Release: August 16, 2006
PHILADELPHIA, PA — The City off Philadelphia and Independence National Historical Park announced the unveiling of the semifinalist models for The President's House: Freedom and Slavery in Making a Nation. The models will be on display in the Grand Hall Lobby of the National Constitution Center during the Center's regular hours and can be viewed through September 13, 2006. The models have been created by five semi-finalist teams who were among those responding to a Request for Qualifications in October 2005.
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.
"There is a compelling obligation to illuminate the full history of this place and all its inhabitants ? and no better place to do so than on the doorstep of the Liberty BBell, the symbol of freedom in this country," said Mayor Street.
To 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 ? the Citty of Philadelphia, in full partnership with Independence National Historical Park, issued an RFQ in the fall of 2005 for the design of a permanent, outdoor commemorative installation to be placed on the footprint of the President's House. (The house itself will not be reconstructed.) The unveiling of the models is an important step in the public input process.
"The Presidents House Site commemoration is one of the most thought-provoking projects currently underway in the National Park Service," said INHP Superintendent Dennis Reidenbach. "The potential to reveal the paradox of slavery in a new democracy and the impact of this institution upon the subsequent history of our country is unparalleled."
Since the project's inception, it has been the intention of the City and the National Park Service to provide the public with an opportunity to respond to the design plans.
"We want to ensure that the public gives us feedback on the models they feel best capture the core themes of this commemorative installation," stated Joyce Wilkerson, Chief of Staff from the Mayor's office. "This is an emotional and heartfelt commemorative site, and it must resonate with the people of our community and region, as well as with the millions who will visit this historic site."
Mayor Street pledged the first financial support for this project in 2003 when the new Liberty Bell Center opened, committing $1.5 million in City funds. Congressmen Chaka Fattah and Robert Brady subsequently secured a $3.6 million federal grant that completed the funding for the project.
An Oversight Committee was formed in the fall of 2005 to ensure that the project accurately portrays all of the people who lived at the site and that the final design inspires visitors ? deepening their experience with the Liberty Bell itself. Selected on the basis of their ability to represent the varying interests of the public, the members of the Oversight Committee include an impressive array of community activists, historians, and others who petitioned for this project on the basis of its national significance. The Oversight Committee reviewed the responses to the Request for Qualifications and made recommendations to the Mayor and INHP Superintendent prior to the selection of the semi-finalists. After reviewing public comment, the models, and additional presentation materials submitted by the semifinalists, the Oversight Committee will again forward recommendations to the Mayor and Superintendent Reidenbach, who comprise the finalist Selection Committee along with the Director of the City's Capital Program Office and the Chief of INHP's Division of Cultural Resources Management. The finalist will be selected this fall, and the anticipated dedication date for the commemorative site is in October 2007.
Meaningful public comment and input is essential to this project. People are encouraged to visit the National Constitution Center and to fill in Evaluation Cards. Public comments will be posted on the project's website, www.phila.gov/presidentshouse.
The City and Independence National Historical Park have expressed their gratitude to the National Constitution Center for providing a free space for the public viewing.
All semi-finalists are required to incorporate certain "core design requirements" into their proposals, which were developed through consultation with community advocates, through public meetings, and through historical research. For example, the final design must clearly indicate the outer boundaries of the President's House and the footprint of the Slave Quarters, where a "solemn sense of place" must be established. Also, six substantive themes must be reflected: the house and the people who lived and worked there; the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government; the system and methods of slavery; African-American Philadelphia (including an emphasis on free African-Americans), the move to freedom, and history lost and found (how knowledge of the President's House and the presence of slavery there was forgotten and recovered).
The members of the Oversight Committee are: