Philadelphia veterans museum fights to preserve Black History and beyond

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Philadelphia veterans museum fights to preserve Black History
A preservation effort is underway for the incredible items within the ACES Veterans Museum and the very building that holds its history.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- When Dr. A.V. Hankins opened her medical practice at 5801 Germantown Avenue, she didn't realize the historical significance of the building she worked in.

"The third floor of our building was Parker Hall, which was a functioning United Service Organization (USO) for Black veterans during World War II," she said.

With the help of a supportive community including veterans, Dr. Hankins was able to create the ACES Veterans Museum on the property.

"When we created ACES, we wanted to include all minorities to make sure that the story was told," she said.

ACES is now home to various rooms filled with memorabilia, historic photos, and artifacts. But its third-floor, Parker Hall, had been inaccessible to the public for roughly 13 years.

The room remains largely unchanged, with murals of Black military members adorning the walls. The faded record player, piano, and television remain as artifacts preserved in a particular time.

With years of fundraising and help from the community, ACES was able to have a soft opening of Parker Hall last month to host a WWII veteran returning for his 103rd birthday celebration. It will host another event in March, but the official grand opening is yet to have a set date.

"What we need to do to get Parker Hall fully open to the public is some kind of handicap access," said Dr. Hankins.

The goal is to install a lift or elevator to bypass the creaky staircases that separate Parker Hall from the museum entrance. Dr. Hankins is hopeful that raising awareness and advocating for the preservation of such history will help them cross the finish line.

Dr. Hankins' ultimate goal is to have the site recognized nationwide as an official World War II monument. And they are already taking small steps to get there.

On January 18, 2023, Philadelphia Historical Commission meeting minutes revealed that "The Committee on Historic Designation voted to recommend that the nomination demonstrates that the property at 5801-03 Germantown Avenue satisfies Criterion J and should be designated as historic and listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places."

A local Army veteran, Howard Silver Hawk Page, is supporting the cause.

"As a Native American, the first relatives that I know who fought for this country was in the American Revolution," he said. "We need ACES Museum and we need Parker Hall because this is where we can let loose... to interact with other veterans and share our stories."

To learn more about ACES Veterans Museum and its hours of operation, visit their website.

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