The IHA Moves Forward

Nevertheless, the Independence Hall Association moved forward with plans for the project. By the end of 1942, Larson's committee had reviewed four plans. The more extensive schemes contemplated redevelopment of three blocks north of Chestnut Street and the area east of Fifth Street toward Christ Church. More important was the concept of a modest mall east of Independence Square, "exposing and glorifying" the Second Bank, Carpenters' Hall, and the First Bank. Larson's committee, spurred on by one of its members, Fiske Kimball, voted to support the most ambitious alternative. The executive committee concurred, with Lewis noting that he thought Congress would give its approval to a big plan as readily as a small one.

Over the next year Larson proceeded to refine the chosen scheme. On January 25, 1944, he and Lewis addressed a luncheon meeting of the Fairmount Park Art Association. Larson exhibited a plan and rendering. Along Chestnut Street opposite Independence Hall, the plan reverted to Cret's scheme for a semicircular reviewing plaza set off by a colonnade. Beyond a broad grassy mall stretched to Race Street, flanked by tree-shaded walks and gardens, interrupted by the major east-west streets. The mall terminated at Race Street in a semicircular plaza centered on a monument. To the east a modest tree-lined mall led from the center of Independence Square past the rear of the Second Bank to a landscaped square around Carpenters' Hall. A cross-axis opened a vista of the Second Bank from Walnut Street. Buildings, some existing, some new, remained along Walnut and Chestnut Streets.

David Knickerbacker Boyd suffered a fatal stroke at his desk in the office of the Independence Hall Association on February 21, 1944. Despite failing health, he had been the workhorse of the organization, attending almost every committee meeting, maintaining contact with City Hall, carrying on a voluminous correspondence, drafting speeches and letters for Lewis. With Boyd's death, Lewis began to assume a more active role, gradually dropping his other volunteer posts in order to concentrate on the Independence Hall Association. As he took its reins more firmly into his hands, there were fewer committee meetings, and fewer contacts by others with the press and federal and city officials.

Lewis became increasingly dissatisfied with both the pace of legislative action and Larson's plans. Although he approved of the architect's scheme for the mall north of Independence Hall, he rejected what Larson called a sword thrust to the east. "Lewis was determined that there would be a national park in the three full blocks from Fifth to Second Streets between Walnut and Chestnut. In so doing, he dismissed Larson's concept of retaining and reinforcing the urban fabric around the area's historic buildings. Of course, neither the north mall nor the park to the east was a new idea. What Lewis did was to combine the biggest dreams of the 1920s and 1930s and persevere until he turned them into reality.