U.S. Rep. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Allyson Y. Schwartz was presented with Cliveden’s 2013 Heritage Award for her commitment to public service and historic-preservation work at a Friday night dinner on the historic Northwest Philadelphia grounds.
There, Cliveden board member Ted Reed and previous winner Dick Wade gave the award to Schwartz.
For his part, Cliveden Executive Director David Young said Schwartz exemplifies the organization’s core purpose of “create in all neighborhoods a pride of place, where the past is valued, preserved and used for the benefit of the community.”
He added that Schwartz’s work on initiatives like the Livable Communities Task Force and the Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus stands as proof that she recognizes “that the value of historic places is not what they teach us about our past, but also in what they promise for our future.”
Schwartz: History matters
In accepting the award, Schwartz spoke of Philadelphia’s important role in American history.
“We should be enormously proud that Philadelphia is where [the forefathers] decided what their principles were, what the Bill of Rights were and what the Constitution would look like,” Schwartz said.
She noted that history isn’t always pretty, and that can be seen right there at Cliveden.
“Even with the recent revealing of the fact that [the Chew family] were slaveholders, [Cliveden] doesn’t deny what happened here,” she said. “It is part of our history, one that we’re not proud of and one that we have worked to correct all this time. …
“Cliveden not only tells the story as it has always been told, but has renewed it with new information telling the full rich [story with details that are] some good, some to be ashamed about. It’s part of our history as Americans. It’s important for us to learn from it and build the kind of community we want to live in.”
Rev. Dr. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church, was the event’s keynote speaker. He spoke about the importance of allowing everyone to define America’s history.
“History is not in the control or domain of one particular group of people,” Tyler said. “We all participate in our history. We need to change our assumptions about what we deem to be historically significant and who we deem whose persons to be historically significant.”
Tyler cited Cliveden as a model for other historic sites around the country “who learn we know best about our own story when … we accept what gives us shame, because we learn best, not from the heroic moments, but we learn best about what not to do by looking at the things that cause us grief.”
Tyler said Young and the Cliveden staff are “tearing down the wall to engage and bring the community in to hear what this house means to other people.”
In explaining the reason for the award, Young said Schwartz has worked to expand and modernize the Federal Historic Tax Credit to create new economic opportunities and jobs while strengthening the quality of life in the nation’s older and historic neighborhoods.
“For me, it isn’t just a historic tax credit,” Schwartz said. “It’s about making historic buildings living places and making sure we use them in ways that bring people in and around us in our community.”
According to Cliveden’s website, the award has, during the past two decades, “been presented to philanthropists, curators, public servants, business leaders, historians and educators for their wide-ranging contributions to Cliveden, to the communities of northwest Philadelphia and to the realm of public history.”