In a surprising move that resolves a long-simmering feud, the proponents of the American Revolution Center have worked out a deal with the National Park Service to build the complex in Philadelphia at Independence National Historical Park and not in the middle of Valley Forge National Historical Park.
That announcement was made jointly Wednesday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and officials from the American Revolution Center. According to that announcement, the National Park Service will develop a national museum dedicated to the American Revolution. To do so, the Park Service signed a land-exchange agreement with ARC to establish this museum at Independence National Historical Park. In return, the Park Service obtains 78 acres of rolling meadowlands surrounded by Valley Forge.
The land swap brings to a close an at-times bitter battle over whether the bucolic acreage just north of the Schuylkill River would be turned into a museum complex complete with a restaurant, tavern, and hotel or preserved for its historical significance as part of the Continental Army's successful winter encampment of 1777-1778.
The land, which embraces meadows, wetlands, and forests cut by two streams, is known to locals as the Pawling Farm. The acreage is surrounded by the national historical park and long has been cherished by the Park Service for addition to Valley Forge.
“This is wonderful news for both the National Park Service and the American Revolution Center,” said Secretary Salazar. “Visitors to our nation’s birthplace will now be able to enjoy a world-class museum dedicated to the story of the American Revolution within the shadow of Independence Hall.”
The new American Revolution Center will be located at 3rd and Chestnut Street in downtown Philadelphia, within the 55-acre Independence National Historical Park.
“The American Revolution Center is a critical project for our nation, and I am extremely pleased with this latest development,” said H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, chairman of the Board of Directors of ARC. "We have expended extraordinary time and resources to locate the Center in Valley Forge, and I believe that our vision there could have been achieved. We now believe that it is in our best interest to begin a new chapter for ARC, and I cannot think of a more appropriate setting than at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.”
At Independence National Historical Park, the National Park Service manages several sites associated with the American Revolution, including the Liberty Bell Center, the National Constitution Center and Independence Hall. ARC will work together with these and other institutions around the country and the world to further the understanding of the revolution.
The American Revolution Center will be the first national museum to commemorate the entire story of the American Revolution. The museum will display its distinguished collection of objects, artifacts and manuscripts from the American Revolution era and will offer educational programming, lectures, symposia, and interactive learning for teachers, students, and the general public.
“I applaud the mission of The American Revolution Center and fully support the decision to relocate,” said Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell. “I am thrilled that Gerry Lenfest, Dr. Bruce Cole and ARC’s Board have selected Philadelphia for the new home of this national museum and I believe it will be a terrific complement to Independence National Historical Park area.”
Dan Wenk, acting Park Service director, said the agency "has long supported the concept of the American Revolution Center. What better place than Philadelphia, the ‘cradle of liberty,’ for a museum about the American Revolution?”
Representatives from the American Revolution Center and the National Park Service will work jointly on appraisals, title searches, surveys, and other matters to move the land exchange process forward as quickly as possible.
“We congratulate the American Revolution Center and the National Park Service in the agreement announced today to locate the Center’s proposed museum at Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia-just a few blocks from Independence Hall," said Mr. Kiernan. "
This agreement will allow visitors to enjoy the museum on an appropriate site in a historically-rich area, while also protecting the historic landscape of Valley Forge National Historical Park for our children and grandchildren. We look forward to learning the details of the new site plan, and helping the American Revolution Center and the National Park Service any way we can to make this new plan a reality.”