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The President's House in Philadelphia

Selected Comments About the Designs

The design models were on public view at the Constitution Center from Aug. 16-Sept. 19, 2006, and at the African American Museum from Sept. 20-October 1.

Visitors were invited to fill out evaluation forms. Below is a small sampling of the 994 opinions from those cards. All public comments regarding the designs are posted at the city's website: click here.

1. I think the concept is flawed. The tail is wagging the dog here. It's the President's House with slave quarters, not slave quarters with President's House.

2. Don't rush to select — none of these designs do the site justice.


Whichever design you ultimately choose, I beg you to give John Adams the respect and prominence he deeply deserves. this great American genius, who was the equal in achievement, importance, and ability to Jefferson, Washington and Franklin, has in recent years begun to receive the attention he merits. Also, by emphasizing his lifelong opposition to slavery and the fact that there were no slaves in the President's House during Adams' tenure, you will build a monument that unites rather than divides our people.

Stuart Howard

All these have things that need to be included in final structure. Howard+Revis should be incorporated with Kelly/Maiello structure and statue figures.


Fugitive Slave Act should have been explained in detail for those not acquainted with the said documents. Too much emphasis was/is depicted on the President (G. Washington) and not enough on Black Africans whom I thought this monument should rightly REPRESENT. My ancestors are not significantly represented. Said mold should be SCRAPPED and start afresh.


Just wasting my tax dollars and your emphasis on nine slaves.


The Davis Buckley design concept respects the pier pattern established in the Liberty Bell Center. It effectively interprets the historical story while keeping the space open, allowing visual connection to the rest of the Mall and its surrounds.


No more building in front of Independence Hall!


Nobody took into consideration bus loads of school children arriving at same time — clogging doorway to Liberty Bell. Room for local guides to talk with groups — that don't read all the info provided!


I like the EwingCole plan best, because of the integration of it into the Liberty Bell Center. So far, I am pleased by an integration of structure. I hope there will be an integration of themes as pleasing. For that, the existing Liberty Bell Center plan will need to change a bit where it meets the House plan.

Thomas J. Degnan, Philadelphia, PA

The Howard+Revis model in my opinion captures the essence of the struggle enslaved Africans endured just to get to America from West Africa. Cramped like sardines on slave ships, the spirit to survive the Middle Passage is what sustained those enslaved Africans. I also like the emphasis placed on Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, two freed Africans who were leaders in a functioning community in South Philadelphia. I also like the way the chef is portrayed serving a traditional African dish.

Donald L. Johnson Sr. Philadelphia, PA

On 8/22/06, I visited Ben Franklin home in London. It was the actual house; 1st and 2nd Presidents' house should be re-built exactly as it was 1790-1800 when Philadelphia was National Capital.


All designs are a bit fragmented. Knock down outer columns of Liberty Bell Pavilion to extend full property line of George's house — matter of fact, knock down two outer and next two columns, roof, etc. — i.e., amend the rear.

After visiting Constitution Hall display of these five finalist ideas to honor the place of Washington's house, I have the following opinions:

I will start with my own opinion and then move on to the exhibits. I am a modernist. I am excited, loyal and committed to twentieth and twenty-first century architecture and design. But I have been passionate for several years about rebuilding Washington's house, as he lived in it and where he conducted the country's first presidential duties.

The idea of our first president is infinitely deep and meaningful and to reflect on that actual person occupying and living in real space cannot be duplicayed with symbolic forms, no matter how compelling they may be. As an urban creature, born bred and spending a life here in Philadelphia I almost shiver to think of such a strong corpuscular link with the past. My preservationist and classical architectural friends recoil at the specter of building a fake house. I recoil at every other one but this one. Building those three blocks of huge anonymous buildings to carry this city's antique story is an act of great alienation, just as this exercise. The other unbelievable missed opportunity for poor George is that his rebuilt house would draw another million visitors a year.

The possible demolition of Dilworth's house has evoked a great outcry, including abstracting its facade to accomodate a highrise. Why does one house, only a blink the city's history, generate such fuzzy feelings (it's not the architecture) while George's status is disconnected from his own contemporary environment?

Barbara Ruth, Philadelphia, PA

Should not overshadow Liberty Bell. Very racist — please mention and put up a memorial to the 3,000 Black slave owners in AnteBellum U.S. A blatant attempt to denigrate the "Father of our Country."

Joseph J. Costello, Philadelphia, PA

The world should know about the enslavement of the African American people held at the President's House in Philadelphia. It's History and it also should be taught in the school systems here and abroad.

Ronald C. Padgett, Erial, New Jersey

Washington's meetings with his cabinet and his levees should be emphasized. Slaves, unfortunately, were commonly found around the country. there is only one 1st president, therefore, I am opposed to any exhibit of the President's House that makes the slave story seem to be the most important.


Please don't build any of these!! They range in quality from poor to poorest. the process was flawed. the products are weak. The teams may be terrific, but the designs are horrific!


I am very tired of the wringing of hands about slavery. We are past that ... It does not need to be embellished as if it were all guilty. we have changed for the better and that is what American stands for.


I would actually like to see the Slavery portion of the exhibit separate from the President's House and not included in it. I think the 9 enslaved Africans that lived in the house should have their own individual statues (if there need to be statues) that represent their own characteristics — example — one of the "nine" was a child!

Debra Hines, Philadelphia, PA

Personally, I love contemporary buildings and house. but this "house" should reflect its actual time period.

Anonymous, Atlanta, GA

First Choice-Kelly/Maiello-for:

  1. the Vitality incorporated in the design: Involvement of the mind of the viewer/participant through use of the senses of sight and sound will create a fuller understanding of the historic activities that took place in the house and a lasting, imprinted memory.
  2. the Balance between static, grand architecture of the design and the grand vibrant learning opportunity.
  3. the Architecture, alone, would be a splendid addition to the Center City.

Second Choice-Amaze Design-for:

    Clean and elegant architectural plan with potential for moving the public through adroitly. Subtle crowd control in a splendid design.


Davis Buckley is the most powerful in its simplicity, although it's a shame that the house plan was reduced. Kelly/Maiello has the best representation of the house, allowing visitors to understand the size of the rooms and the relationship of the slave quarters to the main house. Ewing Cole is too busy and would create a confusing composition. Howard+Revis is not designed at all — just a bunch of sculptures.

Blank, Philadelphia, PA

Why is the new Liberty Bell Pavilion placed directly over the site? How long will the Bell Pavilion stand? The Kelly-Maiello is the only design that preserves the past yet looks to the future.

Patrick Phillips, Urbandale, IO

I simply hope (and expect) to 'see' a realistic depiction of what my ancestors (and certainly 'myself' had I lived in that place and time) endured every second during that 'Peculiar Institution' of (slavery) in America!

Abul-Muhaimin A. Muhammad, Chester, PA

I think it is great that this project is being undertaken, adds another (and mostly unknown) dimension to Liberty Bell/Independence Hall park. It should serve to educate and complement what is there already, not detract or isolate from the overall park experience.

Dirk Allen, Philadelphia, PA

I particularly like the Howard+Revis model because to every point there is a counterpoint. Washington writing the Fugitive Slave Act on one side and Oney Judge packing to escape on the other side. This architect truly took into consideration all concepts and core elements of the President's House.

Erin Stokes, Norristown, PA

Nice design — Amaze Design and Davis Buckley are open and I find aesthetically pleasing.


EwingCole — an opportunity to think "out of the box." Not only does it address the history, but links are made to the "physics of sound — voices" — thus allowing one to learn about more than just history. Allows the opportunity to shade the space in hot summer months.

Greg Ninon, Kennett Square, PA

Davis Buckley is the best — I love the glass pillars and especially the glass paving for the Slave Quarters. This is great.

Blank, Haverford, PA

I am furious with the negativity of these designs. We must also show the positive examples set by John and Abigail Adams. We have no national memorial to them, and this would be a good spot for it.


Hopefully the winner will allow for more interaction within the design. More written information needed on-site. Philadelphia needs to find a way to make this a sort of "destination," not just a side attraction. It was the President's House after all.

Anonymous, Philadelphia, PA

The failure of the US National Park Service to address the President's House in its "general management plan" of the 1990s allowed radical interest groups, tenured new left academics, and extreme "political correctness" to drive this issue. The words "enslaved, slavery, bondage" are used more than a dozen times in the core Design Requirements; "Washington" twice; and John Adams, Abigail Adams, and Martha Washington not at all. Washington's plan to sell Mt. Vernon to English farmers and free his slaves to be hired as free labor is not included anywhere, nor is his will's emancipation and pensions. The effects of his plan to industrialize the U.S. are not mentioned. And __ is false: Slavery in the President's House was not "forgotten." This is generally emotionalism and inadequate story telling.

G.A. Pataki, Philadelphia, PA

While I kind of like all of the designs, none jump out at me. To come close to the pain of slavery and being from the South, I thought that after looking at them I would feel some — I did not.

Edward L. Williams, Philadelphia, PA

I think Davis Buckley hits the emotion and intrigue of the site with great drama. I particularly like the manner in which the location of the slave quarters is commemorated.


Seeing the exhibit released me into a new level of freedom and liberty.

Marlene C. Hurd, Oakland, CA

The process is flawed and does not represent the African Community;

Sacaree Rhodes, Philadelphia, PA

I believe the Howard+Revis design best adheres to the core design requirements. It tasefully depicts all aspects of the President's House as well as is composed of materials that will last over time, as evidenced by similar memorials (particularly in Washington, D.C.). the simplicity and beauty of this design make it, in my mind, the best.

Anonymous, Voorhees, NJ

We need to learn the use and function of this house. The 9 slaves are part of the story and not the whole story. The labels about Hercules and Oney Judge, etc. are enough. I like variety and scope of experiences available in Kelly/Maiello plan.

Blank, Philadelphia, PA

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