Between Friends

Between Friends

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Did You Know...

Independence National Historical Park, the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the Friends of Independence are jointly hosting a Symposium.  Join us for an incredible program that looks at the truthful retelling of history.

Click on the picture for more information

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reflections on a New Year

The New Year is just around the corner.  It is a time to reflect on the past, to make resolutions to change the future and to celebrate another year.  At the Friends office, we are doing just that, we are looking at the past year to see what we have accomplished:
  • The reintroduction of a monthly Speaker Series which has been sold out each month
  • A successful membership campaign where our member’s gave the gift of membership to friends and family
  • A fantastic float created and made by volunteers to represent a “Green” Liberty Bell and then a great showing of all the volunteers and people who work in the park at the Independence Day Parade, along with so much more

And yes we are making our resolutions for 2012 because what is New Year’s without a resolution or two?

In 2012, we resolve to:
  • Be more visible to our members, to our supporters and to the visitors of the park.  The Friends of Independence is the only way you can support Independence National Historical Park and we want everyone to know that about us
  • Increase our programming.  One of the great benefits we can offer as the supporting arm to Independence NHP is great educational programs held in some of the most historic buildings in our country.  Our goal is to increase what we are currently doing and find new ways to bring people back to the park
  • Increase our communications.  If we do not communicate all of our great programs and events as well as the news happening in and around the park, then we are not doing the most fundamental task that we were assigned from the beginning of our origins.  Our goal for 2012 is to increase that communications so that our members and supporters are always aware of what is happening at Independence NHP
  • Say thank you more often because at the end of the day, everything we do means nothing if we do not take a moment to thank the people who support us and our good works every day.
Thank you for your past support and we hope in the New Year, you will continue to support the Friends of Independence because that is the only way we can support the Best Park in History!, Independence National Historical Park.

Happy New Year to You and Yours!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays

The Friends of Independence
National Historical Park
would like to wish you 
Happy Holidays and
a very Happy New Year
to you and yours!

We are excited for 2012
as it marks 40 years of
supporting the
Best Park in History!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


                One day a few months ago, I was walking home from the Ritz movie theatre on Walnut Street.  As I passed the rose garden between 4th and 5th Streets, I noticed a barricaded area with a sign in front of it near the entrance to the garden. I walked over to get a better look and saw what the Park Service had apparently determined to be part of a colonial cobblestoned street, which up until now, had been concealed under two feet of dirt.  How incredible, I thought, that we are still discovering these relics of the past right in our midst.  I continued up Walnut to Washington Square.  At the corner of 6th St., I noticed several people sitting on the benches in back of Independence Hall, reading newspapers, playing with children or walking home with grocery bags.  Of course, there was the usual contingent of tourists milling around the Hall.
                Entering Washington Square, I didn’t notice many tourists but saw that the Square was being used by various people for the same quotidian purposes -- relaxing, reading, dog walking, ball playing.  Like me, some people were cutting through the Square on their way home.  Being a student of Philadelphia history, I knew that I was walking over the final resting place of many victims of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 as well as fallen soldiers from the Revolution.
                My walk ended on the west side of the Square at St. James Street. Other residents of the neighborhood walk home on the same brick sidewalks used by the colonials, past tiny streets and tinier houses dating from the 18th century.  Of course, the 18th century structures stand cheek by jowl with modern buildings built in the last several years, as well as buildings dating from significant architectural periods of the 19th and 20th centuries, from the early 19th century PSFS bank building on the west side of the Square to the modern houses on Spruce and Pine, from the artisan cottages sprinkled around Society Hill to the 20th century Art Deco Ayer Condominium.
                Philadelphians have lived in the shadow of New York City since being eclipsed by it at the start of the industrial revolution.  New York became the boom town, constantly reinventing itself, and in the process wiping away just about every vestige of its architectural history.  While it is true that, to its detriment, Philadelphia’s economic progress diminished considerably in the 19th century in comparison to New York, the silver lining in that cloud is that Philadelphia didn’t do much redevelopment, retaining the greatest collection of colonial period houses in the United States, as well as dozens of fine examples of period architecture dating from the early 1700’s to the present, all positioned against the backdrop of Independence National Historic Park.  Another felicitous result of Philadelphia’s “stagnation” is that the residential “greene countrie towne” that grew so rapidly in the 18th Century is still just that – a residential town.  I know of no other large city in America where one can live in an 18th century setting, amid block after block of 18th century houses, and still be within the present day business district or a short walk away.
                Unlike other cities, our history is not barricaded behind bollard and chain barriers (Independence Hall’s barriers are part of another story), sanitized and remote.  We live our history in Independence National Historic Park.  We live that history in the houses. We walk it by traversing the same sidewalks that Jefferson and Franklin used, along the same streets that were part of Penn’s original grid.  We get a free architectural history presentation just by walking through the Park.
We can thank New York for allowing us to retain our historical setting by outgrowing us in the 19th century.  And, we certainly can thank the National Park Service for maintaining our legacy, allowing us to truly “live in history.”
~Antoinette Stone
  Friends member and Board Member

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Edgar Allan Poe House

Not far from the National Park surrounding Independence Hall is another historically certified site, the Edgar Allan Poe house located at 532 North Seventh Street in Philadelphia. Poe lived in this house several years (approximately 1838 to 1844) and almost all scholars concur that these years were among his most productive and some of his very best work was done during that time.

Poe came to Philadelphia because it was then a great literary center and had many publishing houses. During this period, he wrote over 30 short stories, many magazine articles and wonderful poetry. He lived with his wife, his mother-in-law and their cat, Caterina. Poverty and drunkeness followed Poe all of his life and the family was extremely poor. It is unknown how the Poe house, which was rented, was furnished.

The house has now been restored by the National Park Service. There is a really good 8 minute film that visitors can view. The Park Service guides are extremely helpful and knowledgeable. The ranger-guided tour lasts about 35 to 45 minutes; There are all sorts of references in the six room house to Poe's place in literature. One room has very interesting exhibits showing biographical information about Poe and his development and perfection of gothic  detective stories. Make sure to see the wonderful fireplace in the basement of the house which reminds us of Poe's short story, "The Black Cat".

Walking through Poe's house as well as his garden is a very productive way: to learn about Philadelphia and the City's important role in publishing during the 19th Century; to experience first-hand  a typical 19th Century house and garden; and to learn more about one of America's greatest authors.

~Flora L. Becker
  Secretary of the Board

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Being Thankful

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day where Americans gather with their family and friends to eat turkey, watch football and hopefully give thanks for all that they have in their lives.  On the Eve of this great holiday, I would like to give my own thanks.

I am thankful to the National Park Service.  Every day in rain, sheet, snow and sun, rangers are out in our wilderness parks, history parks and monuments; interpreting, protecting and maintaining these places for the American people.  I am thankful to the Federal Government who in 1872 had the foresight to protect a little place called Yellowstone from being destroyed through development.  Today the National Park Service protects over 450 natural, historical, recreational, and cultural areas throughout the United States, its territories, and island possessions.

I am thankful to the founding members of organizations like the Friends of Independence.  They had the passion, dedication and foresight to understand the importance of preserving and protecting our American Treasures.  I am thankful that they preferred to work on a shoe string budget so that they could pool more of their resources into our great parks and to make them the place to visit.

I am thankful to members, donors and corporate sponsors who agree with us that Independence National Historical Park is worth protecting and maintaining.  I am thankful to the nearly four million visitors who come to our park each year… they remind me why I love working here.

Mainly, I am thankful that I work for the Friends of Independence and that while I will play only a small part in the impressive and extensive history of this park, I will still play a part.  As a born and bred Philadelphian who went on field trips here as a child, nothing makes me prouder than knowing that I am helping to preserve this park for future generations.

So I hope you will join me today and tomorrow and offer thanks to a government department that preserves our heritage, to the rangers who love their job and sharing their knowledge, to the groups like the Friends who tirelessly work to preserve these places and mainly, give thanks to Independence National Historical Park, there is no other place like it and after all, it is the place where America was born.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

~Maiti Gallen
  Program Director

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An inside Look from the Top of Independence Hall

To live in the presence of Independence Hall during this historic restoration has been a once in a lifetime experience for me. To see the spectacular changes on a weekly basis as our National Icon is restored to her historic glory is a project the Friends can be proud of.  
A little history…
Two and a half years ago, the Park along with Charlie Tonetti, Chief Historical Architect’s recommendations, came to the Friends with a plan that would enable the park to work on a beloved building while preserving the visitor experience.  Independence Hall had to undergo restoration work which would cover this iconic building in heavy scaffolding for many months.  Almost 4 million visitors come to this park annually and pose for pictures with Independence Hall in the background. Independence National Historical Park wanted the Decorative Scrim so visitors’memories could still be captured with little interference from ongoing construction. This project will be completed in the next couple of months.

Don Kaufman, former Board member and neighbor describes his experience as he viewed the Bell Tower restoration:
This was not just the end of another Friends project; it was the beginning of a transformation, ….. an out of the box experience for me and as well as Board Member Ed D’Alba, I’m sure.  We were invited to participate in a Press Conference held by INHP to present the restoration of the Bell Tower.  The tower hasn't had a major face lift for many years, so we climbed the scaffolding to examine the restoration that had taken place over the past few months.

We were thoroughly impressed by the quality of the restoration.    An interesting aspect was our ability to view the restoration for the outside of the tower.   One of Ed's employee's commented that “years from now when his kids visit the Hall, he would be able to say that he was on the outside of the tower on the tippy tippy top.” What a thrill to be part of the Friends and to be able to contribute to the restoration of this historic monument.
~Don Kaufman
   Former Board Member, 2005-2010

A few words from Ed D’Alba current board member…

The ascent of the tower was breathtaking.  The opportunity to stand above the "Hall," and outside the "Tower," all of which have withstood the test of time, debate and challenge from what happened within and beyond its hallowed halls will never be forgotten. 

It took but a few steps along the highest levels of the scaffolding to observe the stately beech trees around Commodore Barry to the south, to see the openness of the multi-storied south face of the Constitution Center to the north, and the contemporary and many other historic properties around and near the mall to the east and west.  Is there any other place on earth that so vividly helps underscores the role, the need, and the importance of friends groups nationwide, and of the Friends of Independence National Historic Park in particular?  Helping to preserve and enhance this National Treasure felt very right that day, and will provide memories for years to come.  In one word - Awesome! 
~Ed D’Alba
  Board Member, 2011 -

As Treasurer and Co-Chair of the Independence Hall Scrim Committee, this is civic project that I and the Friends of Independence will never forget.
~ Karen D. Kaufman
   Treasurer and Board Member