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Source: Philadelphia Tribune
Date: January 25, 2009
Byline: Robert Hightower

DRPA asked to donate $3.5M for President's House project

A day after the nation inaugurated its first Black president, Gov. Ed Rendell announced that he asked a bi-state agency to kick in $3.5 million for a memorial on the spot where the nation's first leader lived with slaves.

"This project (now) has even greater significance," former Mayor John Street said on Wednesday of the President's House commemoration, which has grown in scope during a decade of planning to include recognition of the nine slaves George Washington kept at the mansion near Independence Hall.

Rendell, joined at a news conference by Street and his successor, Mayor Michael Nutter, said he requested funds from the Delaware River Port Authority for the project. Earlier funding came from city and federal sources.

The total cost of the President's House project is approximately $8.5 million. The project is expected for completion by the fall 2010.

However, the grant has to go through a two-point process to be approved, according to Delaware River Port Authority Chairman Designee John Estey.

"The way the DRPA works is one month the board committees consider those kinds of request," he said. "The next month the board approves it."

Estey noted the grant was considered by the finance committee earlier this week, but still has to be approved by the board next month.

The grant did not stem from the revenue generated from the recent toll hikes. According to Estey, the money came from funds raised in 1999 that were also used for projects such as the Kimmel Center and Lincoln Financial Field.

Rendell stated the President's House is a staple of the city as well as the country's past.

"It's an important story to be told," he said. "The reason we have history is to learn from it."

Former presidents George Washington and John Adams inhabited the President's House. Nine slaves owned by Washington also lived and toiled in the house. Adams, However did not own slaves.

Rendell added that there were other projects he had in his sights.

"If we could get the American Revolution Center, which would be one-of-a-kind, in Valley Forge we would have just an incredible triangle of major tourist attractions within two hours of themselves in Pennsylvania" he said.

Because the historical events which took place at the President's House were a part of the building blocks of the nation, Rendell said the project must be completed for the sake of future generations.

"The nation needs a museum that recounts what happened in the American Revolution," Rendell said. "Our young people have no idea how close we came to losing that war."

Mayor Michael Nutter was on hand for the event on Wednesday and said he was glad to see the house is coming to fruition.

"I'm very excited," he said. "I have been paying attention to this project long before I was the mayor when I was in City Council. Having the opportunity to participate in moving it forward along with the announcement is a great achievement for Philadelphia and the United States."

In October 2007, Kelly/Maiello Inc. Architects and Planners was selected by the President's House Oversight Committee to draft the design of the project.

Emanuel Kelly, co-founder of the firm, said he is proud to be on board.

"Even young children will be a able identify with the house," he said. "It's a good feeling to be a part of this whole experience to make a concrete recreation of these stories"

Michael Coard, who is a member of the President's House Oversight Committee and co-founder of the activist organization Avenging the Ancestors Coalition has been a part of the project since its beginning.

"It's just like my reaction to Obama being the first African-American president," he said. "I'm afraid to pinch myself, because I think I'm going to wake up and this was just a dream. I did not expect this thing to happen as quickly as it did."


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