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Washington's Presidential Residence in Philadelphia

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Pete Lamb

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Apr 7, 2002, 9:24:13 PM4/7/02
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An independent historian, Ed Lawler, has meticulously documented the
location and architectural characteristics of the house. His work was
vetted then published by The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in The
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
(http://www.hsp.org/publications/pmhb/index.html).

Mr. Lawler correctly located the spot where the official residence stood
-- something the National Park Service has been unable to do. Lawler even
predicted to within 2 feet the location of long forgotten ice house which
Washington later used as the model for an ice house he built at Mount Vernon.

Unfortunately, the National Park Service has planned to build the new
Liberty Bell Center over part of the footprint of Washington's
presidential residence. The discoveries have been brought to their
attention, but they have in typical bureaucratic fashion have preferred
to ignore the new evidence and continue with their monument to tourism.

If you'd like to know more, the Independence Hall Association has
published some information on the web
(http://www.ushistory.org/presidentshouse/index.htm) including some
recent Philadelphia Inquirer articles. I'd also like to draw your
attention to the online petition at this site. If you agree with its
goals, please sign it.

This is a live issue which needs immediate attention -- the National Park
Service recently broke ground on the Liberty Bell Center.

Pete Lamb

Pete Lamb

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Apr 7, 2002, 10:09:14 PM4/7/02
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My newsgroup reader eliminated the opening paragraph of my original post,
so I'll try to reconstruct it.

This building is important because of its role as Washington's
presidential residence in Philadelphia, but it also bears mentioning that
it was General Howe's headquarters during the British army's occupation
of Philadelphia in the winter of 1777-1778. It also served as General
Benedict Arnold's headquarters while he was Military Governor of
Philadelphia following the British withdrawl to New York. One of the
Revolution's principle financiers, Robert Morris, owned and lived in the
house during the war when it wasn't used by generals. Oh, and John Penn
grandson of William Penn owned and lived in the house immediately prior
to Robert Morris.

Few buildings in north america have experienced more foot traffic of
historical giants.

Pete Lamb

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Apr 8, 2002, 4:40:23 PM4/8/02
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Hmmm, do you folks have any opinion about this? What considerations
should NPS apply to situations where historical sites compete? What
concessions should we make to "presentation" and at what expense to a
comprehensive understanding of a topic?

How valuable would you consider the presidential residence of Washington
and Adams?

How would you weigh the building's service as headquarters to both Gen.
William Howe and Gen. Benedict Arnold against its service as the "White
House" in Philadelphia?

Andrew McMichael

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Apr 10, 2002, 1:11:46 PM4/10/02
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Pete Lamb wrote:
> Hmmm, do you folks have any opinion about this? What considerations
> should NPS apply to situations where historical sites compete? What
> concessions should we make to "presentation" and at what expense to a
> comprehensive understanding of a topic?
>


If I understand the issue correctly, the building is no longer standing,
right?

--
Andrew McMichael, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Princeton University
http://www.princeton.edu/~amcmicha/cv.html

"Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg"-- A Dutch Proverb.

Pete Lamb

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Apr 10, 2002, 2:14:33 PM4/10/02
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In <3CB47252...@princeton.edu> Andrew McMichael

<amcm...@princeton.edu> wrote:
>Pete Lamb wrote:
>> Hmmm, do you folks have any opinion about this? What considerations
>> should NPS apply to situations where historical sites compete? What
>> concessions should we make to "presentation" and at what expense to a
>> comprehensive understanding of a topic?
>>
>
>
>If I understand the issue correctly, the building is no longer standing,
>right?
>

You are correct. The last remaining part of the above-ground portion of
the building -- the party walls -- were torn down in the 1950s to create
that grassy park. However, Independence National Historic Park has not
conducted an archaeological study of the site. They're just going to pave
over it.

Mr. Lawler and other historians believe that the building's foundations
still exist. The accidental discovery of the ice house foundation last
year seems to add weight to that opinion. Mr. Lawler predicted the
location of the ice house and notified INHP, but INHP did not communicate
that information to a work crew that was digging up the park for a fiber
optic conduit. The work crew accidentally discovered the actual location.
Mr. Lawler's prediction was accurate to within 2 feet.

The decision to complete the Liberty Bell Center at the expense of the
Presidents' House seems anti-historical and antithetical to the mission
of the National Park Service.

Personally, I'd like the site to be thoroughly studied. Then if it can be
done without damaging the original artifacts, I think a full scale
reproduction of the house would be beneficial in interpreting the early
republic. However, I think the very least INHP should do is outline the
building and its rooms as many others have suggested. INHP refuses to do
even that much.

The importance of this location to our history makes my mind reel.
Imagine the decisions that took place there... imagine the conversations
between Howe and his generals, between Benedict Arnold and the man who
introduced him to treason, between Washington and anyone... and those are
just some of the highlights. IMHO, this house was nearly as important as
Independence Hall.

Andrew McMichael

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Apr 10, 2002, 2:47:52 PM4/10/02
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Pete Lamb wrote:
>
> In <3CB47252...@princeton.edu> Andrew McMichael
> <amcm...@princeton.edu> wrote:
> >Pete Lamb wrote:
> >> Hmmm, do you folks have any opinion about this? What considerations
> >> should NPS apply to situations where historical sites compete? What
> >> concessions should we make to "presentation" and at what expense to a
> >> comprehensive understanding of a topic?
> >>
> >
> >
> >If I understand the issue correctly, the building is no longer standing,
> >right?
> >
>
> You are correct. The last remaining part of the above-ground portion of
> the building -- the party walls -- were torn down in the 1950s to create
> that grassy park. However, Independence National Historic Park has not
> conducted an archaeological study of the site. They're just going to pave
> over it.


What's their beef with an archaeological dig? In theory, I don't have a
problem with paving it over, truth be told. But I definitely think the place
should be excavated first.

>
> Mr. Lawler and other historians believe that the building's foundations
> still exist. The accidental discovery of the ice house foundation last
> year seems to add weight to that opinion. Mr. Lawler predicted the
> location of the ice house and notified INHP, but INHP did not communicate
> that information to a work crew that was digging up the park for a fiber
> optic conduit. The work crew accidentally discovered the actual location.
> Mr. Lawler's prediction was accurate to within 2 feet.


That kind of a prediction is not as hard as it might sound for colonial and
federal era houses. They were mostly laid out in a pattern. When I worked as
a historian for Fairfax County, in Northern Virginia, we did the same thing
for George Mason's grandson's house. Predicted where the kitchen and two
outbuildings should be based on the layout of the house and the position of
the ice house, started digging, and voila!

Pete Lamb

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Apr 10, 2002, 4:45:16 PM4/10/02
to
In <3CB488D8...@princeton.edu> Andrew McMichael
<amcm...@princeton.edu> wrote:

>What's their beef with an archaeological dig? In theory, I don't have a
>problem with paving it over, truth be told. But I definitely think the place
>should be excavated first.

I think Independence National Historic Park (INHP) has been embarrassed
by the discovery for two reasons. First, they didn't find it themselves.
Second, there is a marvelous irony involved... the last thing visitors
will pass over before they enter the Liberty Bell Center are Washington's
slaves' quarters. One might chose to view this as a poignant coincidence
which adds meaning to the Liberty Bell Center experience. Or one might
chose to move LBC to another location and embrace the Presidents' House
as illustrative of the moral/ethical/political complexity of its time.
However, INHP seems to have adopted a siege mentality and has resisted
recognizing the significance of the Presidents' House.

INHP Superintendent Martha Aikens explained officially why INHP won't
consider the proposals to commemorate the Presidents' House
(http://www.ushistory.org/presidentshouse/quotes3.htm). Unfortunately,
the reasons she cites to dismiss the Presidents' House are factually
incorrect. One is forced to question whether these people do their
homework. She states, "Unlike Franklin Court, there can be no steel frame
to outline the entire building, providing context for the floor plan."
Poppycock. Not that I think a steel frame is a good solution, but still
her answer is poppycock.

She continues, "Additionally, there is not the rich collection of letters
from the residents describing specific aspects and activities of the
individual rooms, as was available for Franklin's home...." Washington's
personal secretary, were he still alive, would beg to differ. In addition
to the insurance records meticulously describing the physical aspects of
the building, Washington's secretary corresponded with President
Washington twice a week regarding improvements made to the property,
acquisition and deployment of furnishings and decorations, the assignment
of quarters to washington's household and government staffs, and on and
on. There are also numerous letters describing levies (official group
visitations) with Washington, state dinners, and other official engagements.

The disingenuousness of Aikens' comments are staggering.


>> Mr. Lawler and other historians believe that the building's foundations
>> still exist. The accidental discovery of the ice house foundation last
>> year seems to add weight to that opinion. Mr. Lawler predicted the
>> location of the ice house and notified INHP, but INHP did not communicate
>> that information to a work crew that was digging up the park for a fiber
>> optic conduit. The work crew accidentally discovered the actual location.
>> Mr. Lawler's prediction was accurate to within 2 feet.
>
>That kind of a prediction is not as hard as it might sound for colonial and
>federal era houses. They were mostly laid out in a pattern. When I worked as
>a historian for Fairfax County, in Northern Virginia, we did the same thing
>for George Mason's grandson's house. Predicted where the kitchen and two
>outbuildings should be based on the layout of the house and the position of
>the ice house, started digging, and voila!

I don't disagree with you. Lawler is a very bright man, but not
clairvoyant. The significance of Lawler's prediction is that as an
independent historian, he was able to correctly determine the location of
the house -- something INHP and its team of historians and archaeologists
had be unable to do. INHP knew the building was on that block, but had
incorrectly located it several lots to the east. INHP didn't even have
the dimensions of the house correct.

My conclusion, and you may feel free to disagree, is that INHP's
mishandling of our history has become pretty egregious. The information
is out there; all they had to do was look.

The Liberty Bell is important too, but the location of the Liberty Bell
Center is not authentic to the Liberty Bell's history. And thus, the
center can be moved without undo disruption to its mission. It would seem
that there is room for both historical artifacts on that block, as well
as in the collective American memory. INHP is just being obstinate.

Cary Osborne

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Apr 13, 2002, 12:42:29 AM4/13/02
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I sent an email to the INHP and NPS to let them know how disappointed
I am at how this issue is being handled. No response, of course, but
so many things are being mishandled by the bureaucrats that I had to
speak out. I can't help but believe that the NPS destroys as much as
they preserve; especially they destroy the enjoyment people get out of
visiting historic sites.

Cary

Pete Lamb

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Apr 20, 2002, 7:42:18 AM4/20/02
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In <bbe63661.02041...@posting.google.com> hrlad...@aol.com


The superintendent of INHP, Martha Aikens, was recently reassigned --
probably due in part to this Presidents' House embarrassment. A new
superintendent has been selected, but not yet announced publicly.
Hopefully, it's someone with a history or archaeological background
rather than another bureaucrat lifer.

Thanks for sending in your letter. Every voice helps.

Pete Lamb

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Apr 20, 2002, 7:51:37 AM4/20/02
to
I thought some of you may be interested in listening...

Listen on Wednesday, April 24! Chris Schilizzi, head of interpretation at
INHP and Park Service archeologist Jed Levin will be guests on WHYY's
Radio Times (91FM) from 10-11 AM EST. Guest host Barbara Bogaev will be
sitting in for Marty Moss-Coane. To call in during the broadcast: 1-888
-477-9499 CLICK TO LISTEN TO IT LIVE ON THE WEB
(http://www.whyy.org/91FM/live.html)


This announcement originates from
http://www.ushistory.org/presidentshouse/index.htm

Pete Lamb

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Apr 20, 2002, 7:55:05 AM4/20/02
to
I thought some of you may be interested in listening...

Listen on Wednesday, April 24! Chris Schilizzi, head of interpretation at
INHP and Park Service archeologist Jed Levin will be guests on WHYY's
Radio Times (91FM) from 10-11 AM EST. Guest host Barbara Bogaev will be
sitting in for Marty Moss-Coane. To call in during the broadcast: 1-888
-477-9499 CLICK TO LISTEN TO IT LIVE ON THE WEB
(http://www.whyy.org/91FM/live.html)


I'm repeating an announcment made at
http://www.ushistory.org/presidentshouse/index.htm

Jim Patrick

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Apr 20, 2002, 9:22:09 AM4/20/02
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In soc.history.war.us-revolution, Pete Lamb wrote:

>Cary Osborne wrote:
>>I sent an email to the INHP and NPS to let them know how disappointed
>>I am at how this issue is being handled. No response, of course, but
>>so many things are being mishandled by the bureaucrats that I had to
>>speak out. I can't help but believe that the NPS destroys as much as
>>they preserve; especially they destroy the enjoyment people get out of
>>visiting historic sites.

>The superintendent of INHP, Martha Aikens, was recently reassigned --


>probably due in part to this Presidents' House embarrassment. A new
>superintendent has been selected, but not yet announced publicly.
>Hopefully, it's someone with a history or archaeological background
>rather than another bureaucrat lifer.

Bwahahaha!!! Hope springs eternal in the human heart.

You think the bureaucracy is going to put some 'weirdo' in a prime
bureaucratic position? You know nothing about the NPS. Aiken's been
moved because she hasn't squashed all the opposition and got the
project moving. The schedule's in danger.

There was a mob of applicants, all shouting "I can, I can!", and they
picked the most capable one. The new superintendent is assembling a
team of lieutenants --hatchet men, goon squad, whatever-- and the
announcement will come when the 'team' is ready.

Terms like 'embarrassment' don't apply to the NPS. The *only* item
that has ever slowed them down is good research on a Unit's funding
and (Congressional) reduction of those sources. Letters sent to NPS
are a waste -- they should have been sent to your Congress critturs.


PS:
Been there, seen that. The NPS has been this way for 70+ years.

PPS:
Where's the local --or state or national-- civil rights people?
I thought Philly had some pretty active organizations. Why
haven't they been demonstrating about the NPS erasure of the
legacy of slavery, glossing over the ugly truth? Has anyone
approached them about this?

Pete Lamb

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Apr 21, 2002, 6:28:41 AM4/21/02
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In <2tm2cugpjs6m0jff0...@4ax.com> Jim Patrick <jpatrickMAPS

Uh, I said I hoped they'd select a historian or archaeologist as the new
Superintendent. I didn't say I expected it. But, hey, thanks for mocking
me and diminishing Cary Osborne's correspondence with NPS -- it was very
courageous of you.

While there's some truth in your depiction of NSP, your portrait is
somewhat simplistic. Within NPS there are countless competing agendas,
personality conflicts, etc. Aikens is apparently not well liked within
NPS at levels both above and below her. Even congressmen don't like to
deal with her because she's "difficult." By shuffling her into a lower
profile position, NPS may be removing an obstacle to improved funding
from Congress for INHP. Or perhaps the gathering storm over the slave
quarters may have precipitated Aikens transfer as a method of damage
control... or any of a thousand other reasons.

The use of the word "embarrass" was poetic license. Of course it's not
possible to embarrass an organization. Only living things become
embarrassed. But you're being needlessly nitpicky here.

I do think you're very right about sending a letter to your US
Representative and US Senators. That could have more impact because they
hold the purse strings. However, I don't believe writing NPS is a waste.

Regarding civil rights groups, this isn't really a current civil rights
issue. It's history. If there were still slaves quartered at that
location, then I'm sure they'd be concerned. If you meant to ask more
broadly why special interest groups aren't working on this, they are.
From what I understand many angles are being pursued, but they need
help... in particular they need the public to demonstrate they value the
Presidents' House and its history.

Cary Osborne

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Apr 23, 2002, 5:08:43 PM4/23/02
to
> Regarding civil rights groups, this isn't really a current civil rights
> issue. It's history. If there were still slaves quartered at that
> location, then I'm sure they'd be concerned. If you meant to ask more
> broadly why special interest groups aren't working on this, they are.
> From what I understand many angles are being pursued, but they need
> help... in particular they need the public to demonstrate they value the
> Presidents' House and its history.


I got a response from INHP which made me wonder what is going on in
Philadelphia. The response excused the lack of interest in the
President's House in various ways. However, most of the response had
to do with how well they are documenting and making available
information regarding the slaves that would also have lived there and
were buried in the cemetery. Is that the only significance they put
on this site?

Cary

Jim Patrick

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Apr 23, 2002, 10:00:41 PM4/23/02
to

No, they place no historical significance on it at all. It's purely
political. They are heading off any attempt by the real historians to
get a coalition involving the (organized) black community. By
"documenting all the information about the slaves on the site" they
can make a credible claim to 'going the extra mile for minorities".

Apologies if I sound hard or sarcastic, but welcome to the real world.
I've dealt with the NPS for a very long time, and am friends with
people whose dealings go back to the early 1940's -- on one single
issue. Local, state and federal courts have all ruled against NPS,
who've still managed to dodge full compliance.

<rant?> The CIA is your bosom-buddy compared to the NPS.
NPS is ruthless, arrogant, and their sole agenda is power. That they
can only get it through recreation and conservation irks them no end;
so history and conservation become events manipulated to obtain more
power. I expect your letter's been added to the "large number of
people expressing great interest in this project". <End rant.>

The NPS doesn't understand carrots or compromise. They *do*
understand the whip and the hammer -- their budget. I sincerely urge
you to mail your federal senators and your representative. If at all
possible follow that up with a visit, or at minimum a phone call.

Dunno how much time you have, but mailing your state legislators and
local (Philly) elected government people won't hurt either. Publicity
helps too, and if you can get good publicity in the D.C. area (Wash
Post, Wash Times) it would be a great bonus. As I'm writing, Mr.
Lamb's post linking to a NYTimes article arrived, which is great.

You have my best wishes on this, and my encouragement, but if you
don't approach it as political you won't get anywhere.

Jim Patrick

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Apr 25, 2002, 10:34:26 PM4/25/02
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In soc.history.war.us-revolution, Pete Lamb wrote:
>I thought some of you may be interested in listening...

>Listen on Wednesday, April 24! Chris Schilizzi, head of interpretation at
>INHP and Park Service archeologist Jed Levin will be guests on WHYY's
>Radio Times (91FM) from 10-11 AM EST. Guest host Barbara Bogaev will be
>sitting in for Marty Moss-Coane.

The recording is archived and may be heard with RealAudio® at:
http://www.whyy.org/rameta/RT/2002/RT20020424_20.ram

The NPS objections are:
1) The first presidents' house isn't in the design
2) Outlining the house could be confusing
3) It would change the design
4) The floor plan hasn't been absolutely proven*
5) It would change the design.

It was nice to hear one of the project's main contractors call in and
talk about the NPS's limited funds and how they needed to get moving
with it and stop wasting time on trivia --like having an outline on
the paving of the former presidents' house. Oh, and it would change
the design.

If the picture at the Independence Hall Association is near accurate
http://www.ushistory.org/presidentshouse/images/parkplana.gif
it would take a (lazy) designer less than a week to fix the design.

It would add to the cost, about $5,000 if included before paving and
using pedestrian tile. Assuming polished granite or similar, top-wage
California masons, it could run to $30k --about ½% of project cost.

*My favorite.
The NPS has refused to do the archeology on the known foundations,
refused to allow anyone else to, and intends to pave them over.

Pete Lamb

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Apr 26, 2002, 1:04:54 PM4/26/02
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In <f2dhcucikjsoo2clk...@4ax.com> Jim Patrick <jpatrickMAPS
-IT...@shentel.net> wrote:

<snip>

>*My favorite.
>The NPS has refused to do the archeology on the known foundations,
>refused to allow anyone else to, and intends to pave them over.

I agree with the entirety of your last post, but like your end point the
best. The stupidity of their position is unfathomable.

Martha Aikens' correspondence posted at that site is also revealing. You
wonder if they start believing their own misinformation.

Btw, their PR guy is one of the worst I've ever heard. They don't even
sound like they've tried to put together a convincing argument.

Jim Patrick

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Apr 26, 2002, 5:15:09 PM4/26/02
to
In soc.history.war.us-revolution, Pete Lamb wrote:

>Jim Patrick wrote:
>>The NPS has refused to do the archeology on the known foundations,
>>refused to allow anyone else to, and intends to pave them over.

>I agree with the entirety of your last post, but like your end point the
>best. The stupidity of their position is unfathomable.

Not is you understand the National Park Service! <sarcasm>

It's no more honest than their position that the Presidents' house
can't be outlined because there's no absolute proof of the dimensions;
but they plan to tell people that the house was rebuilt after a fire
using profits from the slave trade -- possible, but there's not a
shred of evidence to support that particular claim.

The NPS believes they present a form of (educational) entertainment,
and that they are the sole experts on what we, the people, need.

>Martha Aikens' correspondence posted at that site is also revealing. You
>wonder if they start believing their own misinformation.

You mean at http://www.ushistory.org/presidentshouse/quotes3.htm

"The outline [of the first Presidents' house] would serve only to
show the size of rooms, which has little interpretive value."
"....create a design dissonance between the two features,
potentially causing confusion for visitors."
--Martha B. Aikens, Superintendent

>Btw, their PR guy is one of the worst I've ever heard. They don't even
>sound like they've tried to put together a convincing argument.

They don't think they need to. The NPS believe they are the sole
dispensers of "historical interpretation", and that if they use big
words and act pompous most of the sheep... uhh, people, will just go
along with their agenda.

Keep up the good work, you might get them to concede a bit after all.

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