Friday, October 02, 2009

William Allen Plaza dedicated as community ‘place of solace’

New space cited as a meeting place for culture, commerce, history and the arts

On a day filled with colorful flags, colonial dancing, an historical marker unveiling, and warm words of gratitude, William Allen Plaza was dedicated on September 26 at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) as a connecting point for faith, history, commerce, culture and the arts.

“I dedicate this William Allen Plaza as a place of solace, rest, historical remembrance, commerce and the arts to delight all of God’s people,” said LTSP President Dr. Philip D. W. Krey. Then came the unveiling of an historic marker defining the significance of the Plaza’s namesake, colonial Pennsylvanian William Allen. The Plaza is located about 200 feet from the spot on the LTSP campus where the Pennsylvania colony's Chief Justice William Allen once made his summer home and principal residence.

The ceremonies made it clear to strangers and those familiar with the project alike that only a unique collaborative endeavor could have made the $1.5 million plaza initiative possible.

In addition to Krey, several speakers spoke of the partnership.

Dan Muroff, president of East Mount Airy Neighbors (EMAN), noted that a once-imposing 12-foot wall had physically cloistered the seminary campus from the community, but added that Krey and others in the campus community “had been committed to a change to integrate” the seminary and the community. The EMAN offices are now housed on the campus.

“This would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of the city, state, commerce and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod,” said Wayne Spilove, chair of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, also a project partner. Spilove said the Allen historical marker furnished by the Commission was “the newest of 2,300 markers” throughout the commonwealth, at least at that moment.

Noting that Allen once served briefly as Philadelphia’s mayor, Terry Gillen, representing City Mayor Michael Nutter, said the Plaza spot “symbolizes what is starting to revitalize the city – the intersection of a commerce corridor and its major institutions – in this case one that happens to be Lutheran – in a city that is an authentic place of history.” Gillen is the executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. She praised the efforts of City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller in advocating for Commercial Corridor funds from the city to be used for the plaza. Vernon Price, representing Miller, gave words of appreciation.

In his remarks Krey added to the list of project advocates the names of Pennsylvania Rep. Cherelle Parker and Pennsylvania Sen. LeAnna Washington, and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which has offices on the campus. He also thanked West Mount Airy Neighbors for their partnership.

In his invocation, seminary Krauth Memorial Library Director Karl Krueger took note of Allen’s witness and commitment to the City of Philadelphia, and a commitment to peace between the colonies and the British “that made him an exile.” Allen was a Presbyterian whose position as a loyalist took him to England in 1774. Five years later he returned to Philadelphia, and died in Mt. Airy in 1780. Before the Revolutionary War the wealthy Allen used his resources to support the building of the state house (now Independence Hall), establishing Pennsylvania Hospital and the Academy and College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania). He served as Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for 24 years and founded the City of Allentown in 1762.

And William Allen was present in colonial dress, noting that Colonial Philadelphia was made a safe place of diversity by Quaker Statesman William Penn “where all peoples could not just be friends but also be free and safe.” He described the new Plaza and the disappearance of the wall that once stood there as a welcoming point for a school where “people can come inside to be entertained and learn how to be better citizens and people.”

Colorful new flags along the Plaza and Germantown Avenue celebrate the Krauth Memorial Library, a renewed campus bookstore, and East Mt. Airy Neighbors, as symbols of community integration, Krey noted. “This Plaza belongs to the community,” he said.

Ken Weinstein of the nearby Trolley Car Diner donated refreshments for the occasion, and the Germantown Country Dancers provided rich entertainment on the sun-splashed Plaza.

(click any image to view a larger version)
Find a photo gallery from the Plaza and Historical Marker dedication at

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