New Philadelphia Takes Step Closer To Inclusion in National Park System

By Benjamin Cox on September 21, 2022 at 6:15am

A bill aimed at making a Pike County historic site a part of the National Park System has passed the U.S. House.

18th District Congressman Darin LaHood’s bill to establish the New Philadelphia National Historic Park passed the House by unanimous vote yesterday.

New Philadelphia, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic Landmark, was the first town platted and legally registered by an African American, Free Frank McWorter. McWorter founded the town in 1836, which is now part of modern-day Barry.

LaHood said in a floor speech yesterday that McWhorter’s and New Philadelphia’s history needs to be preserved for years to come: “Mr. McWhorter went on in his life and in his legacy to establish New Philadelphia, but also to demonstrate the critical role many African-Americans played in their own freedom efforts. Through the sale of land in New Philadelphia, among other business ventures, Free Frank used his earnings to free 15 other family members out of slavery. Additionally, many of the residents of New Philadelphia, both European-Americans and African-Americans, later came together to assist freedom seekers moving North from slave-occupied states and locations. The 40-acre original town site is now nationally and historically significant. It’s an archeological site advancing our understanding of free, rural communities and the abolition movement in the Antebellum era.”

LaHood went on to thank local organizations that have fought to keep the site preserved: “Many local and regional organizations have worked tirelessly for many years to preserve and protect this site, and they deserve so much credit. One organization in particular, the New Philadelphia Association, has done a tremendous job in improving, maintaining, and endorsing the site for the benefit of New Philadelphia descendants, those living in the surrounding community, and those visiting from afar. I am delighted to be here tonight to assist their efforts and support the continued advocacy of many of my engaged constituents on this issue.”

“The preservation of the town site of New Philadelphia is not only good for Western Illinois, but good for all Illinois, the nation and future generations. New Philadelphia being a part of the National Park system will ensure the story of how people of different racial backgrounds lived and worked together during a time of great racial strife in our country. This will help to inspire future generations,” said Philip Bradshaw, President of the New Philadelphia Association.The New Philadelphia Association truly appreciates the bi-partisan support for the legislation and Congressman LaHood’s leadership.”  

The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate for passage.