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Core Design Requirements for the Project

The final design will have to contain the following elements:

  1. The outer boundaries or footprint of the President’s House must be clearly demarcated.
  2. The footprint of the Slave Quarters must be conspicuously highlighted and a solemn “sense of place” clearly established.
  3. Documented interior rooms or spaces may be included in the design’s groundplan to a level of detail that the designer determines will be understood by the public. Additional interpretive elements may provide expanded explanation of historical use of the property.
  4. Six substantive themes must be reflected in the final design. The first five listed below emerged from the preliminary Conceptual Design, and the sixth became clear in a Public Forum held October 30, 2004:
    1. The house and the people who lived and worked there
    2. The Executive Branch of the U.S. Government
    3. The system and methods of slavery
    4. African-American Philadelphia (including an emphasis on free African-Americans)
    5. The move to freedom
    6. History lost and found (how knowledge of the President’s House and the presence of slavery was forgotten and recovered; why we must remember)
  5. Five cultural values also emerged from the October 30, 2004 Public Forum:
      Identity — Interpretation at this site offers an opportunity to put names and faces on a small fraction of the enslaved and free people of African descent who were part of the fabric of the life in the President’s House. These enslaved individuals thus are symbols of the millions of people who were held in bondage during the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. What is known of the lives of those who were enslaved and worked in the President’s House will be a backdrop of the story.
    1. Memory (a sense of influence of the past on the present) — The nation’s first Executive Branch conducts the affairs of the government in the rooms of the house. At the same moment in the 18th century, the economic labor system that made it legal to enslave human beings was actively practiced in the house. By describing and honoring the enslaved people who lived at the site, we are commemorating and honoring the many enslaved people whose stories will never be known and told.
    2. Agency — The 18th century system of slavery was a complete economic, cultural and social world with people of African descent as full participants in the affairs of the time.
    3. Dignity — The enslaved population retained their dignity. George Washington’s slaves adhered to an unwritten code of conduct that was as nuanced and demanding as the first president’s well-known code of civility.
    4. Truth — A factual account of how Washington’s household used nuances of the Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 to keep individuals in slavery while they were in Philadelphia rather than at the estate in Mt. Vernon, Virginia. The condition of those in bondage was maintained in order to sustain the political and social strata of society during the post-revolutionary era.
historic documents, declaration, constitution, more