Friday, February 28, 2014

The Friends of Bethel Burial Ground Coalition...
"to honor, preserve and commemorate"
Newly formed Bethel Burial Ground Coalition to hold public meeting.
For Immediate Release:   February 24, 2014                  Contact: Joe Certaine @ 215-510-9928                                                                                                                                   
        PHILADELPHIA --- The public is invited to attend a meeting organized by the Friends of Bethel Burial Ground Coalition (FBBGC) Sat., March 1 at 10 am at the African American Museum of Philadelphia.

The meeting will be held to discuss the historical importance regarding the re-discovery of a 19th century burial ground located at the site of the Department of Recreation Weccacoe playground at 4th and Catherine Streets. The site contains the interred remains of approximately 5,000 Black Philadelphians.  Once owned by Mother Bethel AME Church, the burial ground was abandoned and sold to the City in 1889.

The meeting will also focus on outlining and discussing preservation concerns while building a support infrastructure related to the city-owned historic property.

The coalition has called upon the City of Philadelphia, who owns the property, to suspend a scheduled playground renovation because of potential threats to the interred remains and, the possibility of damage caused by sinkholes, cave-ins and a 180-year-old water main contiguous to the cemetery. Additionally, the Coalition has asked for a supervised engineering study to be conducted to determine the cause of sinkholes and other threats to the burial ground.  

Congressman Robert Brady, representing the First Congressional District of Pennsylvania, where the Bethel Burial Ground is located says he is in support of the Coalition's goals. In a recent letter to Mayor Nutter the Congressman said, "I am asking the City to rethink its current renovation plans, while taking into consideration the national historic importance of the property." To ensure that the property would be covered by the City and Commonwealth preservation laws, last year Brady wrote to the Philadelphia Historic Commission urging the site's placement on the City's Register of Historic Places. On June 14, 2013 the Commission voted unanimously to place the burial ground on the Register. 

The Friends of Bethel Burial Ground Coalition is being formed to ensure that the public has input and helps to provide guidance to the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office, as the public policy for the stabilization, long-term preservation and national historic certification of this publicly owned, historic site is being developed and implemented.

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