Under Fire, Biden Admin Scraps Plan To Remove William Penn Statue From Philly Park

‘No changes to the William Penn statue are planned,’ National Park Service says

William Penn statue at Philadelphia's Welcome Park (IndependenceNPS/Twitter)
January 9, 2024

The Biden administration scrapped its plan to permanently remove a statue of William Penn from Philadelphia’s Welcome Park, claiming the controversial proposal "was released prematurely and had not been subject to a complete internal agency review."

President Joe Biden's National Park Service announced the reversal Monday evening, just days after it unveiled its "rehabilitation proposal" for the park. That proposal called to remove the Penn statue and replace it with "an expanded interpretation of the Native American history of Philadelphia," which the agency said would bring "a more inclusive experience for visitors."

"Independence National Historical Park has withdrawn the review of a draft proposal to rehabilitate Welcome Park and closed the public comment period," the National Park Service said in its statement. "The preliminary draft proposal, which was released prematurely and had not been subject to a complete internal agency review, is being retracted. No changes to the William Penn statue are planned."

The administration's U-turn came after Pennsylvania Republicans panned the proposed changes to Welcome Park, which is named after the ship that brought Penn to Philadelphia and includes the site of Penn's home, known as the Slate Roof House. House Minority Leader Brian Cutler said the proposal marked "another sad example of the left in this country scraping the bottom of the barrel of wokeism."

"To remove Penn's statue to create a more inclusive environment takes [an] absurd revisionist view of our state's history," Cutler said in his statement, pointing to "the mutual respect between Penn and Native tribes."

Some Pennsylvania Democrats, meanwhile, expressed relief after the Biden administration reversed its proposal to remove the statue. Governor Josh Shapiro said he worked with the administration to "correct" the decision, while Sen. Bob Casey responded to the reversal by saying he was "pleased to report that there are no plans to remove William Penn at this time." Casey's Republican challenger, Dave McCormick, criticized Casey's response, arguing that the Democrat was "too late" in challenging the National Park Service proposal.

The National Park Service still plans to rehabilitate Welcome Park "as the nation prepares to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026," it said in its Monday evening statement.

"Upon completion of all the necessary internal reviews, the park looks forward to engaging in a robust public process to consider options for refurbishing the park in the coming years," the agency said.