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Source: Philadelphia Tribune
Date: August 3, 2007
Byline: Robert Hightower

President's House slave quarters covered to preserve dig find

In early May, archeologists made a discovery of epic proportions while performing a dig at the site of the President's House, on Independence Mall, by stumbling upon the actual foundation on which the edifice once stood.

Tuesday, officials announced the cavity that was dug in the dirt that exposes the find would be covered.

The President's House was inhabited by former President George Washington along with as many as nine slaves who toiled on the grounds.

Last year the National Park Service and the Independence National Historic Park held a contest that gave a myriad of architect teams an opportunity to develop an idea to commemorate the house.

The victory went to Kelly/Maiello Architects and Planners.

However, before the model that was crafted could be built, archeologists first had to scourer the area by digging to determine whether or not there were any remaining artifacts that were still in the area.

What the archeologists found was a discovery that linked the present directly to the past. The foundation gave a visual aid to the story of not only the nation's first President, but of the slaves who were forced to labor there as well.

Now, because of the age of the foundation, it must be covered after being visited by over 300,000 people with the same dirt that has preserved it for years to avoid being damaged by the elements.

Jed Levin, who works as the research director for the National Park Service, made it clear that the foundation just could not stay unprotected.

"We can't just leave it the way you see it now because exposed to the weather, it just won't survive," he said. "But they could be displayed if they are covered in some way with glass or something."

Levin went on say that measures are being taken to compose a solution to find a way to incorporate the foundation into the design.

"(Mayor John F. Street) announced that a task force along with the National Park Service would find a way to do that," he said. "The mayor urged the task force to proceed as quickly as possible, but to take the time to do it right. So there's no absolute deadline, but everyone understand that we have to keep the momentum going and keep moving forward."

Also in attendance was attorney and co-founder of the Avenging the Ancestors Coalition Michael Coard who felt that the fact that slave were here could not get lost in the fray of celebration.

"I'm not here to put a damper on today's event's, but this thing today should have happened 33 years ago because the National Park Service knew what we are finding out today in 1974," he said. "Let's remember, this is not all about celebration."

Because the President's House Memorial will be right next to the Liberty Bell Center, the location serves as a form of irony, according to Coard.

"A mere five feet from the main entrance of the Liberty Bell Center is where the slave quarters was," he said. "As you enter that building of liberty, you will literally have to cross that bell of slavery."

Rosalyn McPherson, who serves as the project manager for the President's House, said that constituents must keep the spirit of the project alive.

"There is a bigger responsibility to do this right and to ensure that we as best we can continue the public education that this site allowed us to do," she said.


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