Park Service To Remove Statue of William Penn From Philadelphia Park, Replace It With More ‘Inclusive’ Displays

The park service is soliciting public comment on the proposed project for 14 days beginning Monday.

AP/Matt Rourke
The moon sets behind a statue of William Penn atop of City Hall at Philadelphia. A similar statue of Penn in a nearby park will be removed to make room for more 'inclusive' displays. AP/Matt Rourke

The Biden administration’s National Park Service will remove a statue of William Penn from a park at Philadelphia commemorating the founder of the state of Pennsylvania as part of an upcoming “rehabilitation” meant to make the park more “welcoming, accurate, and inclusive experience” for visitors.

The park service, headed by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, says that after consultation with Native American groups it wants to use the renovation of Welcome Park as an opportunity to expand displays about the indigenous Americans that lived in the area before European settlers arrived. The statue of Penn, along with a model of the Slate Roof House that once occupied the site and was Penn’s residence from 1699-1701, will be removed and not replaced as part of the process.

The park service is soliciting public comment on the proposed project for 14 days beginning Monday.

Welcome Park, built in 1982 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the founding of Pennsylvania, is currently the only site in Philadelphia dedicated to celebrating the life and achievements of Penn. It is named for the ship that brought Penn to the American colonies, the Welcome, and sits on the Delaware River at Sansom and Second streets.

Penn, born at London in 1644, was an influential Quaker theologian who emigrated to what was then the British colonies following years of religious persecution in Europe and England. He founded the Pennsylvania colony in 1681 after receiving a land grant of some 45,000 square miles west of New Jersey and north of the province of Maryland. As the proprietor of the colony, he penned a Charter of Privileges laying out religious liberties and civil rights that would greatly influence the Continental Congress that drafted the American Constitution in 1787.

The Park Service says many elements of the open-air museum that now make up Welcome Park, including the street grid, the rivers and the east wall of the park will remain. A “separate and future” effort with no fixed timeline for completion will include new display panels on the park’s south side wall to replace the Penn timeline incorporated in the original 1982 design.

City officials at Philadelphia have yet to respond publicly to the park service’s plans, which were announced late Friday. Social media, however, has been flooded with comments decrying what users say is the “canceling” of the founder of the state of Pennsylvania. Others noted, however, that another statue of Penn sits atop Philadelphia’s city hall. 

Ms. Haaland, a former congresswoman from New Mexico and chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party, was named Interior Secretary by President Biden shortly before he took office and was confirmed by the Senate in March 2021. She is the first Native American cabinet secretary in American history.

The New York Sun

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