Philanthropist makes Philly museum a $40M offer

JOANN LOVIGLIO Associated Press Published:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Cable TV mogul and philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest announced a $40 million challenge grant Tuesday for a planned American Revolution museum in Philadelphia's historic district.

The announcement came as designs were unveiled for the Museum of the American Revolution, slated to open in 2015 a few blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

The red brick, classically styled museum by architect Robert A.M. Stern will be constructed on the site of a former visitor center built for the 1976 Bicentennial. It will house George Washington's tent and other Revolutionary War-era artifacts, manuscripts, rare books and art owned by The American Revolution Center, the nonprofit educational organization that is building the museum.

"The American Revolution secured our independence and led to the creation of this great nation," Lenfest said in a written statement. "Yet two centuries have passed and there is still no national museum that tells the entire story of this remarkable period.

Lenfest, chairman of the Revolution Center, said that if the museum can raise $40 million in donations, then he will match that amount. In addition, Pennsylvania's capital redevelopment assistance program has authorized up to $30 million in funding.

The museum, along with a conference center and lodging, was previously planned on a 78-acre parcel located within the boundaries of Valley Forge National Historical Park, about 20 miles from Philadelphia.

The Park Service, some neighbors and preservation groups argued that the museum group's plans for Valley Forge were too commercialized and would tarnish the landscape and history of the encampment. After a court battle, the Park Service in 2009 agreed to a land swap that preserved Valley Forge and moved the museum to Philadelphia.