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91FM Arts and Culture Reporting

President's HouseThe President's House in Philadelphia:
November 19, 2001 - May 13, 2002.

In the spring of 2002, the National Park Service had begun construction of a controversial new home for the Liberty Bell. By coincidence, this site on Independence Mall happened to overlap the footprint of the house that served as the Philadelphia White House for Presidents Washington and Adams when Philadelphia was the nation's capital in the 1790s. Local historian Ed Lawler had recently documented the original location of the house. He found that the entrance to the new Liberty Bell pavilion will be over the footprint of the slave quarters that Washington added to the rear of his Philadelphia mansion. Some scholars, including Gary Nash, have called for more archeology and better interpretation of this little known chapter of slavery in the City of Brotherly Love. Many agree.

WHYY's 91FM News was the first to report this story and continued to track the controversy. Listen to the reports and follow the links to related sites:

  • In May 2002, officials from the National Park Service met with an invited group of historians. At issue was the new Liberty Bell Center on Independence Mall. The building, which is under construction, will stand just a few yards from where President George Washington housed his slaves when he lived in Philadelphia. The Park Service and the invited historians disagree on how to commemorate the site, as WHYY's Joel Rose reports. [Listen]

  • In April 2002, the National Park Service spoke out on the controversy over the planned Liberty Bell Center. At the heart of it, is how much the Park Service plans to talk about George Washington's slaves, who were housed at the site of the new Center. On Radio Times, guest host Barbara Bogaev talks with Chris Schilizzi, head of interpretation at Independence National Historical Park and the Park's archeologist Jed Levin. [Listen]

  • While Philadelphia has long showcased its Revolutionary War heritage, the city has been less upfront about its relationship with slavery, according to one historian. WHYY's Fred Mogul spoke with UCLA Professor Gary Nash, whose new book looks at "the Forging of Historical Memory" in Philadelphia. [Listen]

  • On March 13, 2002 91FM's Radio Times host Marty Moss-Coane spoke with Professor Nash. [Listen]

  • Philadelphia's Liberty Bell is getting a new home. But as Independence National Historical Park begins construction, some historians are asking them to slow down. Below the planned bell's new plaza, may be remains of the "White House" where George Washington once presided. WHYY's Mhari Saito first aired this report in November, 2001. [Listen]

For more information or to voice your opinion visit The Presidents House in Historic Philadelphia

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