The City of Philadelphia is debating how to best commemorate the President's House site. We asked readers to tell us what they thought should be done to honor the slaves who worked for Washington and to commemorate the history of the site. Here are their responses:

This site should definitely remain open. It would be great to rebuild the house, but doubtful this could be done. The City or Park service should see if some sort of glass floor could be put over the foundation so visitors could see the foundations of the first President's house. A picture of what the house looked like should also be on site.
  • 5/30/2007 9:10 PM
We visited the site and talked with a park ranger about the historical significance. We saw and participated with other visitors in swapping stories, facts and amazement at the history uncovered b4 us...While I understand about the value of preserving the site from the elements, covering up the site is NOT the answer...This is so unique - instead of presenting us with a sterile modern architectural solution, the site should look like Ben Franklin's (plexiglass like, transparent covering) and also be very, very simple so as to encourage people (including "non-museum" folks) to stop in un-announced and be amazed at what is here in Philly....This is so unique and it deserves a UNIQUE, sensitive solution that encourages dialogue; the current format works really well, except for needing more signage that more people can read at the same time, and the ability to hear professionals talking. Please don't cover the site up! Have a meeting to ask people to share their ideas and see where it takes us!!
  • 5/31/2007 8:05 AM
This is the very first presidental home and should be rebuilt.With all the information that this country can find to make it exactlly what it looked like before being let go from the pass...This is not just a slave house but a national tresure. This is the true root of ALL AMERICANS and our infant steps of our pass history...I like to make that clear ...As all true americans would feel ...We can't change the pass but we need to look at things in the face ...And see how far we our country has progressed..Rebuild this home, it will inspire all just how far we have come as a nation.Way to many historical buildings are buried beneath these sacred earliy grounds that will forever be lost to progress and development.So if we can save a few our historical sites and save them for our future generations,they will secretly give us a big thank you ...Don't you think ???
  • 5/31/2007 9:26 AM
Best of both worlds solution. Continue with the current interpretative plan as is. Then, instead of burying history, which we keep doing, it seems, build a subterranean passageway at 10 feet below street level featuring the archeological remains of the house, including the bow window, the kitchen foundation, and the servant's passageway. All up close archeology below. Interpretation and themes above.
  • 5/31/2007 4:33 PM
The current plan to rebury the site and and build an abstract representation of the first white house is a mistake. The true complexity of country and our system of goverment as seen in this house and it's occupants is far more important than the Librerty bell (a symbol) could ever hope to be. The building should be recreated to the best of our ability and the excavated materials should should be put on display. It is often forgotten that the Liberty Bell was an anti slavery symbol and not, as many people suppose, a revolutionary war symbol.
Just as knowing the messy the truth about our first president's slaves is better for Philadelphia than glossing it over, and literally filling it in, the first White House should be rebuilt to whatever it actually was so that the people can judge it for themselves. To erect some architect's abstraction over these truths would be a crime.
  • 6/2/2007 2:11 PM
To be reminded of the history of slavery in our "free" society should take precedence over the value of "things" such as artifacts, albeit quite important in the realm of history. What better way to help us bear in mind the era of slavery. The exosure of the site could invoke a common respect for others, regardless of race and religion.
A suggestion: Perhaps a clear covering could be installed at street level so that the public could look down and visualize the excavated site. This would be so meaningful. Unearthed hidden passage ways from our Presidents' home to slave quarters: what a stark reminder of the lack of fairness and cruelty that took place to people who were created equally. (This was the most poignant factor that effected me when I viewed the site.)
Photographic images on the clear transparent covering could illuminate or define hidden elements such as living quaters and significant features.
A low brick walled facade could form the boundaries of the property at ground level (street level) and a roof-like covering could protect the site from inclement weather. Artifacts could be viewed at one of the nearby museums.
Let's not "cover up" slavery and inequality again!
  • 6/5/2007 1:09 PM
This is truly an amazing find, for all of America! To cover it over would be indicitive of the way America has come to face all of it's problems or embarrassments. Out of sight out of mind. A long hard look needs to be taken before making hasty decisions that cannot be undone. This is not only a decision for Philly residents, this is a national treasure which belongs to all Americans! I am looking forward to making a trip from Oklahoma just to see it. I had not planned a visit this year, but have now changed my mind. PLEASE preserve it for all generations!
  • 6/8/2007 1:08 AM
A truly amazing find, especially literally right at the foot of our nations most sacred symbol of freedom, The Liberty Bell. To cover this sacred site over, as if it never existed, would be to pretend that slavery never happened. The entire home should be rebuilt as a tribute to not only our nations first president, but those who faithfully served him. We spend a lot of money each year keeping the White House up, why not rebuild this amazing tribute which was our first presidential home. Let us continue to lay at the foot of the Liberty Bell, the acknowledgement that not all men were created equal or free at the time.
  • 6/8/2007 1:16 AM
While on business in Bologna, Italy, I visited a large bookstore located in an old, historical building. Older, still, were the remains of ancient construction visible below the floor. To preserve that piece of excavated history, the bookstore's floor had been built of steel beams supporting large, thick glass tiles. It was truly an experience to stand in the middle of the store and view the remains of another era beneath. Perhaps something similar could be done for the Washington house. Building a structure - a museum, perhaps - with a glass floor over the excavation would allow the historically significant site to be preserved, and it would not only allow visitors to view the site, but also provide some measure of protection from the elements.
  • 6/8/2007 2:10 AM
Rebuild the house. If Independance Hall is worth saving and visiting, so would this house. I realize details are missing, but let architects and historians give it their best shot. After all America's past is important.
  • 6/8/2007 12:43 PM
Keep the excavations open! This site gives vivid experience of early U.S. history not available elsewhere. Keep the viewing platform; cover with clear acrylic-type material, marked with some explanatory lines to help people understand the basics of what they are seeing; cover with a simple open pavilion (not weatherized). Find another site for the structure that had been planned for this one.
  • 6/8/2007 5:15 PM

I agree with Inga Saffron (Inquirer, Friday, May 25 - Let's not throw dirt on the city's history): The presence in Philadelphia of the first President's House is a big deal. It is a treasure that no other city can claim. I also agree that this is a project that should be done well. If it is, it will continually draw students from local schools, area residents, and tourists.

Because of their authenticity, the foundations that have been revealed through careful excavation have emotional power that cannot be duplicated by a display area or structure built over a filled-in site. After all, the founding fathers, slaves and others labored adjacent to and above these gray stones. The stone footprint of the house should be left for all to see.

Also, the project's architect can learn from recent experience at the 6th and Market site. The observation deck which my wife and I have visited has been a forum for discussion and a spot where visitors of all colors have stood shoulder to shoulder to actually view the contradictions in our history. There is great value in this - in a small way, it helps mend the national fabric. Through their designs, architects can bring people together or keep them apart. Viewing platforms, kiosks, and semi-circular seating bring people together, and it is hoped that elements like these become part of the final plans for the site.

  • 6/13/2007 3:30 AM
PLEASE rebuild the presidential mansion as it was when Washington was there!
  • 6/13/2007 12:56 PM
keep the excavation open!This site gives vivid experience of...
  • 6/17/2007 3:51 PM
Rebuild it. The First White House would be a huge boost to tourism. Many Americans are not that aware that Philadelphia was the capital prior to D.C.
  • 6/21/2007 1:46 PM
I believe waiting for money to build a better Memorial, with views of the excavation as it is, is the way to go. In Britian they found ways not to cover over Roman ruins, so can we.
  • 8/2/2007 3:37 PM
The Liberty Bell Center never should have been built over the President's House site in the first place. The bell has no historic connection to the first block of Independence Mall; the President's House has a 240-year connection. The National Park Service had full knowledge of Washington's slave quarters when it broke ground on the LBC in 2002, yet recklessly proceeded to build over the site without any intention of informing the public of its significance. This was a blunder of historic proportions! (pun intended). The whole process is backward: the President's House commemoration should not be limited and tailored to fit in with the LBC; the LBC should be altered to accommodate the full potential of the President's House.
  • 8/8/2007 2:52 PM