Last week, our Editorial Board wondered: Why do we tolerate the mediocrity of Independence Park? After talking to experts, tourists, and other stakeholders — including a school-trip-age student — it was clear that Philly residents have ideas for how to improve the park. Readers also shared their ideas reimagining the space. Here are a few of the most intriguing suggestions.
Add a reflecting pool to create dramatic sight lines.
What Independence Mall seems to be lacking is a reflecting pool along with fountains, landscaping, and statues. The reflecting pool is effectively used to dramatically enhance the sight lines in both the National Mall in Washington and the Jardins du Trocadero in Paris. The block between Chestnut Street and Market Street would be the obvious choice for a reflecting pool, while the block between Market Street and Arch Street next to the Visitor Center would be an ideal place for more family-friendly attractions, such as a carousel, indoor/outdoor cafés, and fountains like the ones at Dilworth Park, which are extremely popular with children. — Nick Vudragovich, Runnemede
Implement a 18th-century dress code for all Old City workers.
Add flower beds of splendid colors. Extend the lawn to cover Market Street between Fifth and Sixth. Call upon the Phillies and Eagles organizations to manicure and maintain the grass to the quality of their playing fields. They should be asked to cover this bill as civic partners and ambassadors of the city.
All workers in Old City, public and private sector workers alike, should be encouraged to occasionally — perhaps every Friday — wear 18th-century clothing. — Michael Daves, Valley Forge
Build beautiful pedestrian bridges and walkways.
I wonder if it would be feasible to construct beautiful pedestrian bridges over each of the three cross streets: Chestnut, Market, and Arch, along the Fifth Street side. The bridges would, of course, be a safer way to cross the busy streets, but also, the areas under the bridges would provide much-needed shade, an area where groups could gather, and a place for cafe tables and chairs. And I think the side walls of the bridge could address the need for additional space for historical markers, art, and sculptures. — Maryann Rule, Havertown
Focus on historical plants and trees.
Independence Park was never meant to be a show garden like Longwood Gardens. It was meant to help tell the history. The park’s historic and well-designed landscapes should not be altered just to achieve a current version of what we currently think is pretty, any more than we would change the paint colors in Independence Hall to follow current fashions, or make unthoughtful changes to significant architecture designed by a respected architect.
Until recently, plants from flowers to trees in the park were to stick to species that were either native or were species that had already been brought to Philadelphia by the late 18th century. We now see flowers in the park that do not fit this criteria and are just the latest thing selling at the big-box home centers. — Todd Hart, Ardmore
Fly the flags of the 13 original colonies.
I suggest flying the flags of the 13 original colonies that met at Independence Hall in the summers of 1776 and 1787. These flags would be upon the walkways of the park stretching from Independence Hall to the Constitution Center, with interactive exhibits year round about the states and/or the park itself. Interactivity is the key to keeping people engaged while waiting for entrance to such places as the Liberty Bell Center or Independence Hall, one of my favorite places to visit in Philadelphia. — Doug Griffith, Allentown
Build an American Indian museum.
My expensive idea is a museum focusing on Native American history on the East Coast, prominently situated on the mall. The Penn Museum has an interesting collection of American Indian artifacts that is underutilized in its current space. The opportunity to revive the story of Native Americans in colonial America would also be a powerful fund-raising opportunity attractive for many of the same groups behind the Smithsonian.
If it were up to me, this building would go directly on the mall, ideally in the empty space on the northwest corner of Market and Fifth. At the end of the day, the mall itself is the geographical problem, and it needs to be filled in as much as possible. — Phil Gentry, Walnut Hill
Stop hiding the Liberty Bell.
When I first moved to Philadelphia in 1992, I remember telling friends and family that one of the things I loved the most about my new home was that I could walk or drive past the Liberty Bell any time of day or night, and I could see it and reflect on it. Particularly at night, with the light shining down on it, it was, at least for me, a very moving sight. Now, the bell is hidden behind a guarded fence and a row of bushes. If you are driving down Chestnut Street, you can’t see it at all. If you are walking, and if you crane your neck just right, and if there isn’t a park ranger in the way, you might be able to see a corner of it. In short, not so moving anymore. I would move the Liberty Bell somewhere visible, fully encased in glass, and let her once again be a welcoming, accessible, and shining monument to the hope and promise of freedom and equality for all. — Suzanne Ilene (Shoshana) Schiller, Queen Village
Build a Revolutionary-theme casino, turn the Constitution Center into a water park.
Independence Mall is not a memorial to America. It’s a relic of the bad old days of urban renewal, a vacant lot created through the demolition of historic buildings. Its post-Bicentennial neglect is no surprise, given how little thought went into it in the first place. The best use for it? Any way to get more money out of the tourists. I suggest a Revolutionary-theme casino. What better way to stimulate the city economy than that? While we’re at it, the Constitution Center has always been an embarrassment. I say, move the brass statues to Independence Hall and turn the building into a kick-ass indoor water park. — Robert Formica, Kensington
More on Rethinking Independence Park
- Editorial: Why do we tolerate the mediocrity of Independence Park?
- A look back at history: How Independence Park brought drama from the start.
- Kid critic: We asked a 7th grader to review Independence Park. Here’s what she thought.
- Philly tourists on Independence Park: A disturbingly empty space in the center of the city
- What the future could look like: From Ed Rendell to “Betsy Ross,” we asked Philly luminaries to reimagine Independence Park.
- From the archives: Inga Saffron reviews the 2010 revamp of Independence Mall.