PHILADELPHIA — Today, Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large) released the following statement in response to allegations of interference in the Philadelphia Historical Commission’s preservation process:
“We need to trust in the integrity of our public institutions. The recent allegations by a member of the Philadelphia Historical Commission must be taken very seriously.
“Last year, I joined organizers, historians, and activists across the city to protect the Camac Baths, which proudly displayed our city’s tribute to LGBT visionary Gloria Casarez, and the Minton Residence, home and workplace of abolitionist Henry Minton. I share in the community outrage when the Commission denied these locations historical designations that could have protected them from destruction.
“Philadelphia earned our status as a World Heritage City not just for our role in the colonial era, but for our role throughout movements for justice as well — from abolition to universal suffrage, to civil rights and LGBTQ rights. Yet, it is clear that our Historical Commission has not granted these historic movements the same consideration, further disenfranchising historically marginalized communities and causing irreparable damage to our city’s collective history. The Camac Baths and the Minton Residence both served as hubs for communities facing discrimination and prosecution.
“I have been a longtime advocate for improving our approach to historic preservation as well as the need to expand staffing for the Historical Commission to more thoroughly and speedily review potential designations. The Commission must proactively engage and protect the histories of our city’s diverse populations, especially members of Black, Brown, and LGBTQ communities, and those living at the intersections of these identities.
“However, in light of these allegations, it’s clear we also must take a close and comprehensive look to guarantee the Commission fulfills its mandate. Decisions must be based on merit.”