Accuracy debate over memorial

INDEPENDENCE MALL - August 21, 2009 They gathered at People's Plaza today, next to the site where America's first two presidents served their terms in office to mark the beginning of the construction phase of the President's House Project.

Mayor Michael Nutter announced that the subcontractors for the project will be primarily minority owned firms.

The controversy centers around two different views of what the project should represent.

Some historians and the Independence Hall Association envision an exact replica of the house where presidents George Washington and John Adams lived with at least nine African slaves.

"The slave quarters that is in the current rendition is not in the correct place and does not have the correct dimensions," Edward Lawler of the Independence Hall Association said.

Lawler serves on the Independence Hall Association's oversight committee for the project and says his main concern is the bow window that George Washington ordered built for the house.

"That should be the correct size and it should be a semicircle, it should not be an octagon that the current plans show," Lawler said.

But the project manager, Rosalyn McPherson, says it was never meant to be an exact replica.

"This is a commemorative site, so when you're doing commemorations, you don't have to follow each inch by the rule," McPherson said.

Lawler claims the city misled the Park Service by secretly changing the design.

A claim that Emanuel Kelly, the chief architect for the project, and his project manager, Troy Leonard, deny.

McPherson insists the human story is what is most important.

"The people who lived there, especially the 9 enslaved persons who were held by George Washington illegally and the role they played in the building of the city," McPherson said.

Today, the mayor announced that the subcontractors for project are 67% minority and women-owned businesses. 15 bids have been awarded, 5 of them African American, 1 Hispanic, 1 Asian firm, and 5 female-owned firms.

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