The Avenue of American History
- Imagine that sometime between 1751 and 1775, several forward-looking citizens in eastern Pennsylvania erected a building that exhibited objects illustrating their experiences as settlers in the New World. They included things that spoke to future generations of their unique and trying circumstances in creating a new society with religious freedom in a bountiful but unfamiliar land. They called their building a “Hall of History” and often returned with offspring and friends to remember what they had lived through.
- Imagine that twenty-five years later, amid revolutionary turmoil and visions of independence from England, descendants of the first group created their own Hall of History nearby. Their exhibits recorded dramatic political developments and a broad spectrum of cultural developments and scientific advancements. They added a special room to their Hall of History; a room deliberately left empty for the purpose of inviting future generations to comment on what their generation chose to boast about or conceal.
- Imagine another twenty-five years passed; it was now 1801. Yet another time capsule was created but this time a room was set aside in which citizens imagined what life would be like in the United States a hundred years in the future.
- Now, imagine that as a result of these first three buildings, a tradition was firmly established of adding new Halls of History every twenty-five years. And imagine also that as the centuries passed, every generation stepped forward to write its own history, to imagine the country’s future, and also to comment on what was said in the time capsules of their ancestors. Had this happened, young people and old from anywhere in the United States could today walk down an Avenue of American History and experience a physical unfolding of the society of which she or he is a part. Listening to the "voices" of the past speak about the changes that made the U.S. what it is today would be very emotionally moving, informative, and memorable.
What we have asked you to imagine obviously never occurred.
But why not start the tradition today?
- Imagine it is the summer of 2026 (250 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence) and our own generation opens the doors to a building that represents the period 2001-2025, the one that just will have ended. A young person walking down this Avenue of American History could return in 2050 to take the same stroll with his or her children, and return in 2075 with children and grandchildren. Two new buildings would have been added reflecting subsequent generational views: new challenges, successes, failures, tragedies and joys. Every quarter century, Americans would be stirred to think about what to say about their immediate past and to see what new Hall of History architecturally captures the spirit of the times.
- This is our Development Group’s vision of an Avenue of American History. It is a vision we believe will translate into a vital historical expression of our society, a unique educational experience, and an integral, dramatic, and invigorating addition to the cultural infrastructure of Philadelphia. It also holds the promise of being a compelling international tourist attraction of the highest order.