A few days ago, our editorial board expressed disappointment in Independence Mall and invited readers to suggest ways to make it better.
When I read our editorials I usually duck, roll, and cover, but this one caught my eye. It turns out I am a reader, as well as a writer whose role is to make things better.
I know that role will surprise some people, such as my editor, but it is true.
The editorial board thinks that Independence Mall is kind of empty, it lacks beautiful shrubbery, and the vast lawn is shabby.
True, because paltry federal funds are strangling it. The greenery could be upgraded with one visit from Lawn Doctor, preferably gratis. More flower beds and shrubbery would enhance eye appeal. That’s easy.
The lawn is “empty” by design, to provide a setting for America’s greatest jewel — Independence Hall. It is a shrine, and the lawn in front of it should be deferential, encouraging visitors to rest and reflect.
To that end, benches are needed, along with picnic tables where families could enjoy an al fresco meal with a matchless backdrop.
Public restrooms on the east side must be open, clean, and guarded. North of the restrooms, I would add stalls with merchants specializing in 18th-century products and skills.
Farmers could churn milk into butter or cheese and sell their goods on the spot. I imagine white-capped women spinning wool and weaving. Other stalls could feature leathercraft and woodcraft, artisans making wax candles, or jewelry and table settings from silver, copper, and pewter. The stalls would be both commercial and educational.
Across Market Street, on the lawn next to the Independence Visitor Center? That would be the fun-and-food area.
That’s where I would install a 10-story Ferris wheel utilizing a Colonial design. It would provide elevated views of Independence Hall to the south and the National Constitutional Center to the north.
Next to the Ferris wheel, I’d have a tot lot for youngsters, and next to that something that kids love — animals. The Philadelphia Zoo could stock a mini-barnyard with domestic animals of the Colonial era — sheep, goats, pigs, ponies, dogs, chickens, rabbits, ducks, turkeys, some of which could be petted. (Hand sanitizers would be provided.)
Along the perimeter of the lawn would be food booths dishing out a wide variety of ethnic treats, everything from Armenian dzhash to Polish kielbasa. These would be consumed at the picnic tables.
The board noted that the mall is dark and desolate at night. That’s because everything’s closed. I’d keep everything open until at least 9 p.m. during the summer and perhaps 7 p.m. otherwise.
There’s another way to brighten the Mall, day and night: Install a JumboTron, as we had there for Pope Francis.
A 15-minute video explaining the Revolution, which I would assign to documentarian Sam Katz, would play four times an hour with captions in a dozen languages, plus a recording in every language that visitors could access on their cellphones.
Let’s have statues arranged on the lawn depicting not just leaders of the Revolution, but others, too, of every race and age and gender. The statues would be animatronic robots programmed to give a spiel about who they were, what they did, and why.
It would cost big bucks, but we shouldn’t put a price tag on our dreams.
The men who met in Independence Hall and created a nation didn’t do that. Why should we?