President's House remnants receive protective covering

Workers began covering the excavation at the President's House site yesterday, placing a special fabric over the foundations of the great bow window installed by George Washington; wrapping the foundations for the kitchen, where some of his nine slaves toiled; and protecting the foundations of the subterranean passageway that ran between the kitchen and the main house.

Once all the site's architectural elements are covered, the great hole at Sixth and Market Streets on Independence Mall will be refilled with the earth that was first removed.

The process is expected to take about two weeks, archaeologists said.

Covering the remnants of the house where Washington and his successor, John Adams, lived and worked in the 1790s is meant to protect the historical resources.

Plans call for commemoration of the house and its residents, particularly the nine enslaved Africans held there by Washington. A design for the commemoration was accepted before the beginning of archaeological work, but the results of the excavation proved so compelling to visitors that city and park officials are rethinking how to proceed.

Mayor Street has expressed a willingness to reconsider the plan, a process that is under way. A public advisory committee is mulling everything from proceeding as originally intended to scrapping it all and leaving an open site. The committee's deliberations, including some public sessions, are expected to last into September.

The public platform where more than 300,000 visitors watched archaeologists gradually expose the architectural remains will remain in place for the time being, park officials said. Some interpretive material will be available there, as well as a photograph of the exposed excavation. It is possible that construction fencing will be taken down and visitors will eventually be able to enter the house area in a month or so, park officials said.

For videos, previous articles and links, go to

Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or