The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, April 03, 2003  

Independence Hall Closed

The 500 block of Chestnut St., Philadelphia, was reopened to pedestrian and vehicular traffic Tuesday, ending, it would seem, an 18-month standoff between the National Park Service and local residents and merchants.

Not so fast.

The park service, which opposed Mayor John F. Street's (D) decision to reopen the block, abruptly and without notice promptly closed Independence Hall, and two neighboring buildings, Congress Hall and Old City Hall, also on Tuesday.

Tourists, along with the aforementioned local residents and merchants, are fuming. ("Tourists Angered by Hall Closing," by Linda Harris, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 3.)

I'm trying to give the park service the benefit of the doubt, and city leaders apparently are doing the same, but the whole thing does have the whiff of "sour grapes" to it.

[Post-publication addendum (April 4): Today's Philadelphia Inquirer reports Independence Hall, Congress Hall, and Old City Hall were to reopen this morning, along with new security measures to screen visitors: "The hall closing [Tuesday] angered local officials and tourists, many of whom saw the action as a gesture of spite. Phil Sheridan, spokesman for the National Park Service, which oversees Independence National Historical Park, denied that. The Park Service said all along that the site would be closed only about a week. The only issue, Sheridan said, was security. In the last three days, he said, the Park Service was able to construct a temporary facility for screening visitors. The screening tent will be on the Fifth Street side of the park, between Chestnut and Walnut Streets."]

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