“Do or Die” at Valley Forge

We hear the museum at Valley Forge is on again. Now the campaign goal is $150 million – up from $100 million since we first learned of the proposal in 2002. The increase is due to the sensible addition of an endowment, as well as land acquisition costs. This last change may also be a needed breakthrough for the project. The American Revolution Center is no longer planned for federal land. Rather, the sleek design by architect Robert A. M. Stern will make its way from the parking lot at Valley Forge to a nearby tract currently owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The project stalled out in June 2004 when, on the eve of a planned $10 million gift by the Oneida Indians, the National Park Service suddenly forced the nonprofit American Revolution Center to stop raising money. The Oneidas, who were looking forward to an elaborate and solemn ceremony recalling their gift of 600 bushels of corn to Washington’s starving troops at Valley Forge, had no choice but to take their check back to Upstate New York where they wrote the trip off in embarrassment and disappointment.

Many institutions take a step forward and a step (or two) back. Whatever it may be, the American Revolution Center’s ability to raise $150 million from sources around the nation – widely acknowledged as essential for the project’s success – is still very much an open question.

Once again, it is “do or die” at Valley Forge.  Do the leaders at Valley Forge have what it takes to convince the Oneida Indians to return for a third time in a quarter of a millennium? 

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