Slightly more than a year after it was announced, National Park Service officials finalized a deal Friday to have the Museum of the American Revolution rise within the grounds of Independence National Historical Park, not within Valley Forge National Historical Park.
In a meeting in Philadelphia, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and American Revolution Center Chair H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest formalized the land exchange that brings to Valley Forge a key piece of historic real estate.
The exchange capped an at-times bitter battle over whether the bucolic acreage just north of the Schuylkill River and surrounded by Valley Forge 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 78 acres, 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.
In return for turning the 78 acres over to the Park Service, the American Revolution Center gets 0.87 acres of land within the boundary of Independence National Historical Park and $3.21 million.
“With this land exchange, we are fulfilling the mission of National Park Service to conserve places of historical significance to the people of the United States,” Secretary Salazar said in a prepared statement. “This agreement enhances the Valley Forge National Historical Park experience and adds an important element – the story of our nation’s struggle for freedom – to Independence National Historical Park.”
Dennis Reidenbach, the Park Service's Northeast regional director, said the deal allows the Park Service to "preserve the location of the Continental Army’s Valley Forge winter encampment of 1777-78, while the Museum of the American Revolution will help tell the story of the birth of our nation—just two blocks from Independence Hall.”
ARC intends to establish the Museum of the American Revolution on the 0.87 acres within Independence National Historical Park, which itself covers almost 54 acres in Philadelphia’s Old City and includes Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Congress Hall, Franklin Court, and other historic buildings associated with the founding of the United States.
ARC, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization dedicated to engaging the public in the history and enduring legacy of the American Revolution, plans to display its distinguished collection of objects, artifacts and manuscripts related to that era.
“The story of the American Revolution is relevant to every American. The Museum of the American Revolution can bring life to many chapters of that story and add a new dimension for visitors to Independence National Historical Park and Philadelphia,” said Cynthia MacLeod, superintendent of Independence National Historical Park.