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The President's House in Philadelphia

Ad Hoc Historians Press Packet, September 2003 • Section 1 of 10

Summary of Ad Hoc Historians group position

September 9, 2003
Contact: Randall Miller,, 610-660-1748

Now is the moment to complete the long-overdue work of interpreting the presidential households of George Washington and John Adams and, by commemorating the lives of eight enslaved Africans, telling the full and complex history of American freedom at Independence Park.

Our position

  • The Liberty Bell should not be shown in isolated splendor. Its meanings arise from the life of the nation it symbolizes, including the continuing struggle for freedom and equality.

  • The Executive Mansion itself was lost through ignorance and indifference; we will not let its history be paved over this time.

  • We seek to complete the Olin Partnership design by building into it the concerns of various communities and the true history of this site.

  • We seek Park Service commitment of funds to mark the site with a thorough, dignified and beautiful installation, not obscure it under cosmetic landscaping.

Why is the site important?

  • It is the place where, in a house rented from Robert Morris, presidents Washington and Adams created the Executive Branch of the United States government

  • It is a storied site that also housed Morris, Richard Penn, General Sir William Howe, and Benedict Arnold

  • It was specially modified by Washington to accommodate enslaved members of his presidential household; site of the slave quarters located five feet from the entrance to the new Liberty Bell Center

  • It was the site of challenge, negotiation and manipulation by the Washingtons and two enslaved Africans, Hercules and Oney Judge, over whether Virginia’s slave laws or Pennsylvania’s emancipation laws would decide their fate.

What is at stake today?

  • Current Mall redesign, including building the new Liberty Bell Center offers the best chance in our lifetimes of finally marking the President’s House, thereby restoring the third branch of government to the history told at Independence Mall.

  • INHP documented internally in 1974 that enslaved Africans lived in Washington’s presidential household. Historical research and 18th-century testimony establishing a fully-credible footprint of the President's House and its outbuildings, including the slave quarters, is now available to the public and the Park Service

  • A draft design with substantial merit, commissioned by INHP, was shown to the public last January; proposals for specific improvements of the draft design have been written and widely shared, but no further work has been done

  • INHP is driving to “finish” the Mall, and has begun paving over key portions of the site, without ever completing the design process that Congress demanded. We believe that the Mall cannot be “finished” without the full history of the President’s House.

For further historical information:
  • (images, except where noted, are available for public use. Please credit
  • See also, Charlene Mires, Independence Hall in American Memory (Philadelphia, 2002)
  • Complete contact information for scholars and activists involved is included in this press kit.

Ad Hoc Historians Press Packet, September 2003 • Section 1 of 10

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Copyright ©1999- by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1942. Publishing electronically as On the Internet since July 4, 1995.