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New Philadelphia
National Historic Landmark

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Building on the data obtained in walk-over surveys in 2002 and 2003, we enjoyed terrific summer seasons of excavations during 2004 and 2005 at the New Philadelphia site in western Illinois. The image below shows an outline of the 1836 town plat of New Philadelphia overlain on a 1998 aerial photograph of the landscape on which the town was located. Under the direction of Dr. Michael Hargrave, field school students conducted geophysical surveys using electric resistivity and electromagnetic sensors, which indicated likely locations for foundation remains or other artifact concentrations below the surface. The areas of town lots in which we conducted geophysical surveys during 2004 and 2005 are marked with blue in the image below. We also conducted excavations, completing numerous five-foot-square units, the general locations of which are marked in red below. Our excavations uncovered several intact archaeological features, including the remains of foundations and storage spaces.


map of excavations and surveys

Ms. Michelle Huttes, working in collaboration with others on this project, prepared and submitted an application in the autumn of 2004 to have the entire town site nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. That application was greatly strengthened by the archaeological data we obtained up through the end of excavations in 2004. This nomination received official support from U.S. Senators Richard Durbin and Barack Obama, among others. On June 2, 2005, the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council approved and forwarded to the National Park Service the nomination of the New Philadelphia site to the National Register. The National Park Service's review panel later approved the nomination, and the town site of New Philadelphia was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a nationally significant archaeological resource on August 11, 2005.

National Register link

Projects in 2008 included work towards nominating the New Philadelphia town site for National Historic Landmark (NHL) status, an effort headed up by Charlotte King and Paul Shackel, Director for the Center of Heritage Studies at the University of Maryland. While over 80,000 properties in the United States have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, fewer than 2,500 have received this higher distinction as an NHL. Nomination of the New Philadelphia town site as an NHL with significant archaeological resources was approved on October 29, 2008 by the National Park System Landmarks Committee, on December 3, 2008 by the National Park System Advisory Board, and finalized by the Secretary of the Interior on January 16, 2009.

Patricia McWorter and Charlotte King

Patricia McWorter (left) and Charlotte King (right) at the National Historic Landmarks Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Paul Shackel).

Patricia McWorter presented an eloquent and moving statement on behalf of the McWorter family at that hearing on the powerful legacies of New Philadelphia and Frank McWorter. This nomination received official support from U.S. Senators Barack Obama and Richard Durbin; U.S. Representatives Ray LaHood and John Shimkus; Illinois Senators Deanna Demuzio, Emil Jones, Jr., and John Sullivan; and Illinois Representatives Jil Tracy and Mary Flowers, among others. Many thanks and congratulations to all involved for commemorating the New Philadelphia town site as a National Historic Landmark.

National Historic Landmarks program

Ms. King has also authored an excellent lesson plan based on the history of New Philadelphia as part of the National Park Service's Teaching with Historic Places program.

Congressman Aaron Schock has introduced legislation to make the New Philadelphia town site a National Park. Here are details from Congressman Schock's May 5, 2011 press release --

Aaron Schock Re-Introduces Legislation to Make New Philadelphia Site a National Park
Legislation requires a feasibility study to determine the suitability and feasibility of designating the area as a unit of the National Park Service

Washington, DC -- Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) has re-introduced bipartisan legislation that will require a feasibility study of the New Philadelphia site to determine its qualifications for designation as a National Park. This study is the next step in New Philadelphia becoming part of the National Park Service to ensure long-term preservation and public use of the site.

"New Philadelphia is a site of national importance and should be preserved," said Schock. "This study is an critical next step in continuing to increase the public awareness and significance of the nation's first multiracial community. The designating of the New Philadelphia site as a unit of the National Park Service will also benefit Pike County and the surrounding area. Since I first introduced this legislation last Congress, I have already seen an increase in interest from other Members of Congress."

Charlotte King, a director of the New Philadelphia Association added, "National park status will ensure that New Philadelphia, now an archaeological site, will serve as an inspiration for generations of Americans as a place of opportunity and freedom."

New Philadelphia was the first town founded by a free African-American in 1836. Frank McWorter purchased his freedom, as well as freedom for his wife and several other family members. He settled in New Philadelphia, which became a station along the Underground Railroad. The historic town site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and, in 2009, achieved elite status as National Historic Landmark -- the federal government's highest recognition of a cultural resource.

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