Independence Mall (Philadelphia)
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Buildings on the Mall include the National Constitution Center, the Independence Visitor Center, the Free Quaker Meetinghouse, and the Liberty Bell Center. It also houses the headquarters of Alteva, a telecommunications provider and Cloud Communications Alliance/SIAA member.
Buildings surrounding the Mall include Congress Hall, Independence Hall, and Old City Hall to the south; the Philadelphia Bourse, the National Museum of American Jewish History, Christ Church Burial Ground, and the Philadelphia Mint to the east; the approach to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to the north; and WHYY-TV, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the James A. Byrne Federal Courthouse, and the Rohm & Haas Building to the west.
The south block is usually called the First Block, the middle block is usually called the Second Block, and the north block is usually called the Third Block.
Independence Mall was the idea of architect Roy F. Larson, and was strongly backed by the Independence Hall Association and its president, Judge Edwin O. Lewis. In 1947, as a national park was being assembled around Independence Hall, Lewis advocated that all three blocks be included, but the National Park Service (NPS) expressed interest only in the First Block. Lewis took the idea of a three-block mall to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, proposing that it be built as a state park and a monument to Pennsylvanians who had died in World War II.
Independence Mall State Park was created in the 1950s with the intention that the land would eventually become part of Independence National Historical Park. Funded by 40-year state bonds, its construction was a joint venture between Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia, and was overseen by Edmund Bacon, director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. A couple hundred 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century buildings were purchased and demolished for the project. Among these were the surviving walls of the President's House – the "White House" of George Washington and John Adams during the decade (1790-1800) that Philadelphia served as the temporary national capital.
Responsibility and maintenance for the Mall was turned over to INHP in 1974, and the last of the land was deeded over to NPS in the 1990s.
The first building built on the Mall by the federal government was the Liberty Bell Pavilion, which housed the Liberty Bell from January 1, 1976 to October 9, 2003. The pavilion was demolished in 2006.
An extensive redesign of the Mall was undertaken in the 1990s and 2000s. All the structures except the Free Quaker Meetinghouse were demolished, and the National Constitution Center (2003) on the Third Block, the Independence Visitor Center (2001) on the Second Block, and the Liberty Bell Center (2003) on the First Block were constructed.
- Constance M. Greiff, Independence: The Creation of a National Park (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987).
- Roy F. Larson map (1937) from Bryn Mawr College.