Jan 9, 2024 - News

William Penn statue to remain in Philadelphia after public outcry

A statue of William Penn in Philadelphia

William Penn looking out upon Welcome Park in Old City. Photo: Courtesy of Independence National Historical Park

The National Park Service reversed course Monday and abandoned its proposed removal of William Penn's statue from Welcome Park in Old City.

Why it matters: The withdrawn design incorporated Native American history rather than just the story of the state's founder, whose legacy has come under scrutiny for his ownership of enslaved people.

Driving the news: The Park Service said Monday evening that the draft plan, published on Friday, was "released prematurely and had not been subject to a complete internal agency review."

  • The agency added that it looks forward to a "robust public process to consider options for refurbishing the park in the coming years."
  • Gov. Josh Shapiro said in a post on X that he worked with the Biden administration to correct the Park Service's original plan and was "pleased" the statue would remain.

Between the lines: Friday's proposal came about following outreach from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and discussions with other tribes including the Delaware Nation, the agency said.

The intrigue: The confederacy of tribal nations contends the site of the park was given to them in the 1700s and remains theirs.

Zoom in: Outrage had been building about the possible changes to the site, part of Independence National Historical Park. The Park Service also proposed removing a monument to Penn's Slate Roof House, which sat on the site centuries ago.

  • Some Republican state officials denounced the plan, including House Republican Leader, state Rep. Bryan Cutler.
  • Cutler said on Facebook that it was "another sad example of the left in this country scraping the bottom of the barrel of wokeism to advance an extreme ideology and a nonsensical view of history."

Context: Welcome Park was created in 1982 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of Pennsylvania, and is named after the ship that brought Penn to Philadelphia.

The big picture: The reexamination of public statues and monuments has become a flashpoint in recent years across the U.S., with monuments coming down in Philly and elsewhere in the country.

What they're saying: Kenneth Deer, a member of the Bear Clan of the Mohawk Nation, which is part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, tells Axios the confederacy still expects the agency to incorporate Native American history in any future redesign of Welcome Park.

  • "The National Park Service said it will consult with Native Americans with that lot and we expect them to fulfill that promise," he said.
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