THE major design elements of the President's House commemorative site focus on the enslavement of Africans within the executive mansion during the formative years of this nation. Approaching the site from the north, the cornerstones of the house will be marked by three foot square bronze castings that depict the historic facade of the house. Two over life-sized bronze figures draw one into a composition the theme of which is the crossing of a threshold. The stance of the figures symbolize a point of departure and are emblematic of two enslaved people, Ona Judge Staines and Hercules, who crossed from slavery to uncertain freedom.
HERE, two figures stand before a glass wall with an opening in the center. Above the opening is the United States Census of 1790, revealing the overwhelming population of enslaved people in this country. To either side are the original thirteen states, divided by north and south, with the number of enslaved people. Imbedded within the transparent glass is a facsimile of the Mt. Vernon Slave Census of 1799. This handwritten document belonging to President Washington contextualizes the plight of Ona, Washington 's Dower slave, and Hercules, his slave and chef. The opening in the glass wall leads one to a Federal style bronze doorway. On the back is a relief sculpture of President Washington: a full-length portrait with the Constitution in hand. This composition evokes the tension between a nation that professes equality for all, yet holds an overwhelming number of people in bondage.
BETWEEN this introductory composition and the entrance to the Liberty Bell Center is a plaza. The paving pattern recalls the symbolic textile arts of Africa. Set in the plaza in black granite is an imprint of the President's House floor plan. Each room is clearly marked in bronze letters. The area of the Slave Quarters is resurfaced with clear glass and open to below. This clear glass corresponds to the archeological location of the slave quarters at the entrance to the Liberty Bell Center. Stepping on the transparent glass creates a natural apprehension. Below the glass, one will be able to see soil brought from the African nations devastated by the slave trade. The existing column that thrusts itself into the slave quarters will be sheathed in solemn black granite.
DEFINING the plaza to the east and west, are eight glass pillars, the Pillars of Truth. Within the glass, layers of images and text describe the historical significance of this place and time. Each pillar presents its own theme revealing the contradictory values and ideals that were present during America 's first decade: the people who lived and worked here; the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government; and history lost and found. The visual cadence of the Pillars of Truth is carried into the Liberty Bell Center, so too are their values.
JEFFERSON's serpentine wall flowing through the Liberty Bell Center, extends into the plaza. A glass panel is placed on the face of the wall displaying a timeline of significant events in the abolitionist and civil rights movements. The panel is entitled "The Long Road to Liberty." Its placement at the entrance to the Liberty Bell Center further expands the concept of freedom and brings a new appreciation for the Liberty Bell that stands vigil at the end of the wall.
THIS commemorative space is rich in truth, expanding and enhancing the visitor's experience of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the President's House.