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The President's House in Philadelphia

RFQ: The President's House

Converted for the web from RFQ [PDF format]





RFQ Responses Due Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 5:00 PM

Proposed Dedication Date: July 4, 2007


The City of Philadelphia (the "City"), in partnership with the National Park Service ("NPS") and Independence National Historical Park ("INHP"), invites teams interested in providing design, exhibit and installation services in a design-build format, to submit a letter of interest and statement of qualification for consideration regarding:

The President’s House:
Freedom and Slavery in Making a New Nation

A Project in
Independence National Historical Park

This RFQ offers an opportunity to tell a story of national importance in an honest, inspiring, and informative way — through architecture, landscaping, imagery, and interpretive text placed on the threshold of the Liberty Bell Center, home to the symbol of freedom in this country. INHP considers this project to be one of the top interpretive opportunities that the National Park Service has to offer.

From 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia was our new nation’s capital city, Presidents George Washington and John Adams lived and worked in a mansion — the President’s House – that stood a block north of Independence Hall. In that house, our first two presidents literally invented what it meant to be the Chief Executive of the United States.

The profoundly disturbing documented truth is that in this house, there also lived and worked at least nine enslaved Africans — kept by George Washington (not Adams) — in the same era when the founders of our country were declaring that "all men are created equal." In this house, George Washington signed the notorious Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.

The story of the President’s House is thus one of achievement and infamy — of the birth of a free nation and indefensible slavery existing side-by-side. It is a story of remarkable bravery, highlighted by the escape to freedom by Washington’s chef, Hercules, and his wife’s personal servant, Oney Judge. As a nation, we have a compelling obligation to illuminate the history of this house and its inhabitants in all its fullness. What better place to do this than on the threshold of the Liberty Bell?

Today, there is no President’s House, its last remnants having been demolished in 1951. There is no plan to recreate it through this RFQ. Rather, this RFQ is for the design of a permanent, outdoor commemorative installation to be placed on the footprint of the President’s House (immediately adjacent to the Liberty Bell Center), covering approximately 12,000 square feet. The intent is to offer a stirring experience to visitors that complements and deepens the experience of the Liberty Bell itself.

The proposed installation will become the newest addition to a revitalized Independence National Historical Park, known as our nation’s most historic square mile and an international destination that attracts visitors to Philadelphia from all over the world. More than two million visitors seek out the Liberty Bell each year in its new Liberty Bell Center, which opened October 9, 2003. This landmark project will reach and teach tens of millions of people for generations to come.


In 1997, the National Park Service and Philadelphia community developed a Master Plan for the redesign of the three blocks of Independence National Historical Park incorporating several new buildings: the Liberty Bell Center, the Independence Visitor Center, the Independence Park Institute, and the National Constitution Center.

The Master Plan did not call for any acknowledgement of the President’s House. As noted, nothing remained of the house and in recent years, far less historical value had been placed on it than was deserved. In fact, from 1954 through 2003, a public toilet stood atop the footprint of the main part of the house, with only a bronze commemorative plaque affixed to a wall outside the bathroom and an interpretive wayside nearby. Over the decades, substantial confusion and disagreement arose over the mansion’s location, and it became a neglected part of our history.

As the new buildings and landscape were being designed and constructed, however, new and important information came to light regarding the location of the President’s House: In January, 2002, Ed Lawler, an independent scholar, published a 95-page article in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography entitled

The President’s House in Philadelphia: The Rediscovery of a Lost Landmark.

Resolving longstanding misperceptions concerning the house, Lawler painstakingly reconstructed the history, precise location, layout, and features of the residence, as well as the uses to which individual rooms were put.

At the article’s conclusion, Lawler also conveyed why it has become so important on an emotional level that the full story of the President’s House be told:

"An extraordinary juxtaposition will be in place when the LBC [Liberty Bell Center] is completed, one which seems to have occurred by accident.... The last thing that a visitor will walk across or pass before entering the Liberty Bell Center will be the slave quarters that George Washington added to the President’s House."

As word spread of Lawler’s work, controversy erupted and advocacy groups began to press the National Park Service to commemorate the President’s House and the long-obscured story of slavery within it, even as construction of the Liberty Bell Center went forward. The key advocates were the Ad Hoc Historians (a coalition of area historians), ATAC (Avenging the Ancestors Coalition), Generations Unlimited, the Independence Hall Association, and the Multicultural Affairs Congress. Their principal unifying theme: the experience of the Liberty Bell could not be complete without a full portrayal of the economic role enslaved and free Africans played in this country’s formation, which has so often been reinforced by project advocate, author, and Curator Charles Blockson of the famed Blockson Collection at Temple University. On the day of the opening of the new Liberty Bell Center, Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street pledged $1.5 million of City funds in support of the commemorative project.

Although the advocates encountered resistance from the National Park Service, they ultimately prevailed and INHP is now a full and enthusiastic partner with the City. Exhibits within the Liberty Bell Center have been redesigned to reflect more fully the paradox of liberty and slavery. Further, both Mary Bomar (immediate past Superintendent of INHP) and current Acting-Superintendent Dennis Reidenbach have committed to commemorate the President’s House and the lives of its enslaved residents. Of particular importance to advocates, that commitment includes marking the footprints of both the President’s House and the Slave Quarters within the President’s House site, so that there will be clearly defined physical places where people can stand and connect viscerally to the past.

In addition, to help guide the project’s development and ensure its ultimate success, the City and INHP have convened a formal Oversight Committee that includes representatives from all of the original advocacy groups mentioned above. The members of the Oversight Committee are as follows:

  • Romona Riscoe Benson, Interim President & CEO, African American Museum in Philadelphia
  • Charles L. Blockson, Curator, The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection; Founding Member, Generations Unlimited
  • Michael Coard, Esq., Founding Member, Avenging the Ancestors Coalition
  • Tanya Hall, Executive Director, Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Edward Lawler, Jr., Scholar, Representing the Independence Hall Association
  • Charlene Mires, Associate Prof. of History, Villanova University; Editor, Pennsylvania History Studies Series, Pennsylvania Historical Association; Representing the Ad Hoc Historians
  • Dennis Reidenbach, Acting Superintendent, Independence National Historical Park
  • John Skief, Chief Administrative Officer of the Harambee Institute of Science & Technology Charter School; Representing the Honorable Chaka Fattah, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Karen Warrington, Director of Communications, Office of the Honorable Robert A. Brady, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Joyce Wilkerson, Chief of Staff, City of Philadelphia

On September 6, 2005, the final hurdle impeding this project was removed, when U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah, joined by U.S. Congressman Robert Brady, announced a federal grant of $3.6 million to fund the project. Combined with the City funds pledged by Mayor Street, there are sufficient funds to complete the project. In short, a remarkable consensus has emerged and the stars are in alignment for this vitally important initiative.

Illustrations showing the site appear on the following two pages.

The following groundplan shows the location of most of the President’s House as demonstrated by Lawler. The illustration does not show some of the House’s backbuildings, parts of which are now covered by the front door of the new Liberty Bell Center. Further drawings will be made available as this process moves forward.

The following site context view clarifies the placement of the President’s House within Independence Historical National Park:


The scope of services to be contracted for is the complete design and installation of the project. It is expected that the design team will include a contractor as well as additional consultants as needed. The team will ultimately be responsible for every aspect of the design, documentation, and installation of the project, as well as management of schedule and budget. In anticipation of review and comment by both the Oversight Committee and the public, design services are expected to include the following distinct phases: schematic, design development, and final design. All site preparation, construction and construction administration will be part of the required services from the proposed team. (A fee proposal is not required at this RFQ stage.)

The specific services required would likely include, but will not be limited to:

  • Interpretive site and exhibit design;
  • Interpretive and historical expertise and implementation;
  • Site planning, site survey, landscaping, environmental reviews;
  • Building and site materials and systems selection as required;
  • Electronic security and communications systems;
  • ADA requirements;
  • Value engineering and cost estimation;
  • Construction;
  • Construction administration, including management of schedule and budget.

The maximum available contract budget is $4.5 million. This amount must be inclusive of any and all costs relating to the design and installation of a complete project.


Note: The information provided in this section and in Section V is not necessary to respond to this RFQ, but it may be useful in understanding the project’s background and intent.

This RFQ exists because the City and INHP have concluded that, given the overarching importance of this project, this extraordinary design opportunity should be made widely available. Respondents are encouraged, however, to review the original Conceptual Design for the project that was commissioned by the National Park Service in 2002 and, as required, submitted to Congress in March 2003. Prepared by the Olin Partnership of Philadelphia and Ciulla Design

Associates of New York, the Conceptual Design document is available at

Further development of the Conceptual Design did not occur, in part because of funding concerns (since resolved) and in part because of publicly voiced objections made to the process preceding the document’s release. Respondents to this RFQ who are selected for the next phase of this process are encouraged to offer new concepts for the project or may embrace elements of the preliminary design. As indicated, below, however, the final design will have to include certain core elements (only some of which are reflected in the preliminary Conceptual Design) because they reflect a hard-won consensus achieved among the parties involved in this project to date.

It bears emphasis that that the original Conceptual Design, while extraordinary in many respects, was truly preliminary – it contains no final artwork, no specified design materials, and little or no interpretive text. It did not include a demarcated Slave Quarters, which is a requirement going forward. Further, it was influenced by post 9/11 security concerns at INHP that are being handled differently going forward, so some of the design features may no longer be appropriate. These issues will be clarified at the next phase of this process.


To be successful, 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:
    1. 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.
    2. 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 who lived at the site, we are commemorating and honoring the many enslaved whose stories will never be known and told.
    3. Agency — The 18th century system of slavery was a complete economic, cultural and social world with people of African American descent as full participants in the affairs of the time.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.


The following resources, listed in chronological order, are available to respondents, although they will require further explanation at the RFP phase of this process.

  • "Independence Mall Design Guidelines," Final Draft (July, 1998). Available at
  • "Management Policies, 2001" et seq. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. NPS Management Policies are available at
  • Edward Lawler, Jr., "The President’s House in Philadelphia: The Rediscovery of a Lost Landmark," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, CXXVI (January, 2002): 5-95., available at or from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust St., Phila., PA 19107 (215-732-6200).
  • Olin Partnership and Vincent Ciulla Design, "Presidents’ House, Independence National Historical Park, Final Concept Design," March 2003. This is the preliminary design document. Available at
  • Doris Devine Fanelli, "Consensus Document from the President’s House Roundtable," Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (February, 2004). Documents a meeting held on November 18, 2003 at INHP. An interdisciplinary group of scholars examined the relative primary evidence about the site and attempted to resolve questions regarding the Washington occupation of the property. The group reached consensus on what we can and cannot know from the evidence as well as recommended topics for further research. Available at or
  • Edward Lawler, Jr., "Minority Report from the Roundtable" (February 27, 2004) Author’s revision of the consensus document. Available at
  • Doris Devine Fanelli, "President’s House Civic Engagement Forum, October 30, 2004, Report," Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Report of a grant-sponsored civic forum planned in partnership by the Ad Hoc Historians, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the National Park Service. This event’s purpose was to continue discussion of plans for the President’s House site through the examination of the interpretive themes presented in the Olin/Ciulla final concept design. Public response and subsequent comments verified the relevancy of the five themes. During the wrap-up meeting for the event, the planning group identified a sixth theme. The report also identifies cultural values that should be considered in the design process. Available at (click on Forum Report).
  • President's House Site Meeting, September 6, 2005, Report. Document clarifying and updating the February, 2004 Consensus Document by setting forth areas of agreement and disagreement among the National Park Service and Ad Hoc Historians regarding the physical space and the labeling of that space at the President's House. Available at


  •, the website of the Independence Hall Association
  •, INHP’s website. Links to documents relating to the President’s House are at
  •, for the holdings of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection. For archival material on African Americans in Philadelphia’s history, researchers could use this collection, which is housed at Temple University, Sullivan Hall, First Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19122 (215-204-6632).

Interim Interpretive Wayside: Pending completion of this project, the National Park Service will place an interpretive wayside at the site of the President’s House containing a floor plan of the President’s House, illustrations, and text. The text follows:

The President’s House Site 1790-1800

President George Washington called the elegant three story brick mansion that once stood on this spot “the best single house in the city.” Both Presidents Washington (1790-1797) and John Adams (1797-1800) lived and worked in this house, which was rented from financier Robert Morris. Washington’s large household, including enslaved African descendents, contrasted with Adams’ small household. Adams never owned slaves.

The President’s house in the 1790s was a mirror of the young republic, reflecting both the ideals and contradictions of the new nation. The house stood in the shadow of Independence Hall, where the words “All men are created equal” and “We the People” were adopted, but did not apply to all who lived in the new United States of America.

Independence National Historical Park is working with the community to interpret the President’s House Site and to commemorate the enslaved African descendents who lived and toiled there. A permanent exhibit will be created on this open site near the entrance to the Liberty Bell Center.


Records show that Washington and his family slept over the kitchen. His servants, including the enslaved Africans descendents, slept in the former smoke house and throughout the property. Adams left no record of how he used the house. Hercules, Washington’s enslaved cook, presided in the kitchen and was considered one of the best chefs in America. In 1797, Hercules successfully seized his freedom. With the help of Philadelphia’s large free African community, Oney Judge, Martha Washington’s enslaved servant, escaped to freedom from here.


The City of Philadelphia (the "City"), acting through its Capital Program Office ("CPO") and Owner’s Representative (see Section IX.g), invites teams interested in providing design, exhibit and installation services to submit a letter of interest and statement of qualification referencing all team members. The qualifications response must clarify the entire project team that will be proposed for the project. This team would likely include participants with the architectural/engineering design, landscape design, exhibit design, historical, and interpretive skills as well as construction and construction management experience that are anticipated to be required to accomplish the complete project as described in Section III. There will be a later opportunity to allow substitution or additional team components; the purpose of this RFQ, however, is to establish a representative core team (led by a prime consultant) whose submission will be evaluated in regards to the next phase of this process, which is likely to be a Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

The submittals shall include a letter of interest and include at least three similar recent projects with pertinent project data (including references) but no more than ten colored graphics in total. Submittals should also include (but are not limited to) a concise statement of the design team’s vision for the project, and a description of how the team will include the City, INHP, and the public in the design and review process. If available, as an Appendix, Standard 330 forms shall be submitted (for any and/or all of the team members) outlining experience directly related to involvement in projects of this type. You are required to limit your total response to no more than twenty (20) single-sided pages (not including the 330 Forms). Please do not submit any audio-visual or electronic materials, or 3-dimensional presentations as they will not be considered.

Please note that the prime consultant will need to address the standard contractual requirements of the City of Philadelphia. Further information will be available at the next phase of the process.


Submittals will be evaluated principally based on demonstrated previous experience with similar projects and on the design team’s ability to lead the project to a successful conclusion. The Oversight Committee will review the submittals and establish appropriate guidelines for the selection process. On behalf of the City and INHP, the CPO will compile the recommendations of the Oversight Committee and prepare a short-list of teams to whom a request for proposal (RFP) will be issued.

At the current time, the schedule is as follows:

Deadline to submit questions concerning this RFQ: October 12, 2005

See below for instructions on how to submit questions. Questions and answers will be posted at All answers will be available no later than October 19.

Deadline for receipt of RFQ responses: Thursday, October 27, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Announcement of short-list of finalists to receive RFP and design stipend: November, 2005

Announcement of final selection: February, 2006

Completion of Project: July 2, 2007

The original and twenty (20) copies of all responses to this RFQ must be received by the City of Philadelphia’s Capital Program Office at its office located at 1515 Arch Street, 11th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102-1677 by 5:00 p.m on Thursday, October 27, 2005. It is the respondent's responsibility to ensure timely delivery and receipt of its response to this RFQ.

Firms may respond to the RFQ individually or as part of a joint venture with other team members, so long as the individual firm or team responding has the capacity to handle all of the elements of this project.

All questions concerning this RFQ must be directed in writing (hard copy, fax, or e-mail) to:

Jim Lowe, Design and Construction Project Manager
Capital Program Office
City of Philadelphia
1515 Arch Street
11th Floor

Philadelphia, PA 19102-1677

Fax: 215-683-4498
(Voice: 215-683-4422)


  1. Anti-Discrimination
    The City is committed to a policy of diversity in its contracting activities. With that commitment in mind, any contract issued pursuant to the RFP will be issued under the anti-discrimination policy described in the Mayor's Executive Order No. 02-05, which is available at E.O.02-05.pdf. The City’s Minority Business Enterprise Council (MBEC) website address is
  2. Insurance Requirements
    The contract resulting from the RFP will provide that the team shall be required to hold the City harmless from loss or liability arising from the acts or omissions of the firm, its consultants if any, and its contractors or subcontractors, if any. Any contract resulting from the RFP will, except as otherwise decided in the sole discretion of the City, require the selected firm or team to provide certificates of insurance covering the work as required by the City professional services agreement.
  3. Disclosure of Data
    Submittals in response to this RFQ may contain data that a firm or team does not want disclosed for any purpose other than evaluation of the firm or team. If so, the team shall clearly identify, in the cover letter and on the relevant pages, those pages of the submittal that are to be restricted as confidential. The City will make good faith efforts not to disclose such confidential material to the extent permitted by law. However, the City assumes no liability for disclosure or use of such confidential material.
  4. Submission Costs and Ownership
    The City will not be liable for any costs associated with the development, preparation, transmittal or presentation of any proposal or material submitted in response to this RFQ. All materials submitted by the team in connection with this RFQ shall become the property of the City when received. Each team responding to this RFQ agrees that it will have no claim of any nature whatsoever against the City for any costs or liabilities incurred.

As noted in Section X, however, it is anticipated that shortlisted teams selected through the RFQ process for the next phase of this process will be provided a stipend to underwrite the preparation of preliminary design materials.

  1. Reservation of Rights
    The City reserves the right to supplement, amend or otherwise modify this RFQ at any time prior to the prequalification of any firm or team. In addition, the City reserves the right to accept or reject, at any time prior to the execution of a contract in connection with the RFQ, any or all proposals or any part of any proposal submitted in response to this RFQ or any subsequently issued RFP and to waive any defect or technicality and to solicit new qualifications and/or proposals where the acceptance, rejection, waiver or solicitation would be in the best interests of the City. The City also reserves the right to request additional information at any time, including, but not limited to, information that appears to have been inadvertently omitted by a team in responding to this RFQ.
  2. News Releases
    News releases pertaining to this RFQ may not be made without the prior written consent of the City.
  3. Owner’s Representative.
    The City intends to seek the assistance of specialty consultants to act as the City’s “Owner’s Representative.” Terrie S. Rouse has served as President/CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Executive Director of the Children's Museum of Maine in Portland, Executive Director of the California Afro-American Museum in Los Angeles; Senior Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem; and as a consultant to the Boys Choir of Harlem. Recently, she became Executive Vice President/Director of Museums for Union Station Kansas City, Inc. Rosalyn J. McPherson is President of The RJM Consulting Group, Inc., a firm specializing in strategic marketing and product development support. Ms. McPherson has an extensive background in the development of culturally sensitive multi-media materials and exhibits for the education market. Her content specialties are history and science. Most recently she was Senior Vice President for The Franklin Institute where she was responsible for exhibit development, marketing, and the day-to-day visitor experience. Prior to that, Ms. McPherson was Senior Vice President and Publisher at Time Life in Alexandria, VA with specific oversight for the education division. While at Time Life, she oversaw the development of the highly acclaimed 3-volume book set, "African Americans: Voices of Triumph." She also chaired Time Warner's Educational Task Force in New York. Earlier in her career she was an editor and a teacher of junior high history and mathematics.


An initial short-list of teams will be selected by the City, with the approval of INHP and advice of the Oversight Committee, using the criteria set forth in this RFQ, with particular emphasis on a thorough assessment of the success of past projects. All submissions will be acknowledged and the shortlisted teams will then be invited to submit proposals in response to an RFP they will receive from the City. Shortlisted teams will be provided a monetary stipend (amount to be determined) to underwrite the preparation of preliminary design materials.

All respondents should understand that, at various stages of the next phases of the process (culminating in a final design product), significant opportunities for public input and comment will be provided, and the Oversight Committee may want to meet one-on-one with applicants. Respondents will be expected to participate fully in such opportunities.

The City reserves the right to enter into discussions with any and all teams. The City also reserves the right to reject any or all responses, and withhold the issuance of the RFP for any reason.

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