In a dramatic reversal of course, the National Park Service (NPS) has decided not to remove the statue of William Penn from Welcome Park in Philadelphia, which honors Penn’s creation of Pennsylvania. This decision was made in response to strong public outcry and criticism of the original proposal.
Since the park’s founding, the statue—which is located in the area named for Penn’s ship, the Welcome—has been recognized as a historical landmark in Philadelphia. Famous locations like the National Constitution Center and the Liberty Bell are easily accessible from the park itself.
The original idea to remove the statue was a part of a larger redesign of Welcome Park that included a greater emphasis on the Native American history of Philadelphia. Nevertheless, more than 2,600 social media comments were made in opposition to this plan, indicating a strong public opinion against the removal of Penn’s statue.
Prominent individuals opposed to the removal plan included Rep. Bryan Cutler, the top Republican state representative from Pennsylvania. He framed it as an extreme ideologically motivated misguided attempt to “cancel” William Penn and accused the Biden administration of trying to do so. However, Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro asserted that his administration was involved in talks with the Biden Administration, claiming credit for the reversal.
Retraction of the proposal: The NPS claimed that the first draft was leaked too soon without undergoing a thorough internal review. They reaffirmed that there are no intentions to alter the William Penn statue and ended the opportunity for public comment until a fresh plan was developed.
The NPS is still dedicated to restoring Welcome Park as the country gets closer to 2026, when the Declaration of Independence will celebrate its 250th anniversary. In order to ensure that any future proposals are carefully vetted and take public opinion into account, they intend to participate in a comprehensive public process to examine options for renovating the park in the upcoming years.
This development emphasizes how sensitively changes to historical landmarks must be handled and how important they are to the public’s memory. Standing as a testament to Pennsylvania’s rich history is the William Penn statue, which honors a prominent figure in the state’s past.