Image: New museum home
Matt Rourke  /  AP
Civil War re-eanactors are seen beneath the dome of the former First Bank of the United States building in Philadelphia. History and tourism leaders announced plans to move the Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum of Philadelphia to the former bank building.
updated 8/7/2007 4:22:03 PM ET 2007-08-07T20:22:03

The oldest Civil War museum in the country will be moving from a downtown row house to a classic colonial building close to Independence Hall.

The Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum of Philadelphia is slated to reopen in 2010 at its new location, the site of the former First Bank of the United States, museum officials announced Tuesday.

The museum was founded in 1888 and has been tucked away in a four-story house since 1922. Formerly known as the Civil War Library and Museum, it was reborn in 2003 with an emphasis on the Underground Railroad.

Mayor John F. Street presented museum officials with a check for $1.2 million, putting them closer to their goal of raising $25 million for its relocation.

The museum’s board had been trying to secure a new home for years. In 2003, it failed to get a spot in the 131-year-old Memorial Hall, which is being renovated to house a children’s museum.

The move follows years of litigation and funding woes. At one point, there was a possibility parts of the museum’s collection would be moved to Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy.

Abraham Lincoln impersonator Christian Johnson began Tuesday’s ceremony in the high-ceiling atrium of the former bank with re-enactors from the Third U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment.

“What a historic day this is,” Johnson said. “I’m pleased to see the Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum ... will move here in just a few years to this majestic building.”

The First Bank of the United States, built in 1790s, is much closer to the city’s well-known tourist sites, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, than the museum’s cramped building near Rittenhouse Square. The National Park Service describes the bank building on its Web site as “probably the first important building with a classic facade of marble to be erected in the United States.”

The museum says it has the largest Civil War collection in private hands, including about 3,000 artifacts, 7,000 photographs, hundreds of pieces of art and a 10,000-volume library.

Its board of governors had reorganized and expanded in 2003 with the vision to develop a larger, more visible location for the museum, said E. Harris Baum, chairman of the board.

“We’re going to have a different kind of museum that isn’t just about Gettysburg or Antietam,” Baum said. “This museum is going to be about people, Philadelphians, living in this area during the Civil War.”

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Gotta Love Philly

loading photos...
  1. A gangster's palace

    The preserved prison cell of America's best known gangster, Al Capone at Eastern State Penitentiary. A leading symbol of illegal activities in Chicago during the Porhibition Era, Capone spent eight months on a weapons charge 1929. Eastern State Penitentiary, now a museum, was built in 1829 and closed in 1971. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Living history

    Cyndi Janzen displays the United Stats Flag as she plays the part of Betsy Ross at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Paving the way

    Visitors admire a Porsche 917, left, on display in the "pit road" section at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia. (Tom Mihalek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Getting a feel for the city

    A life-sized replica of the Statue of Liberty's Arm & Torch, a sculpture built of toys and found objects by Philadelphia artist Leo Sewell, greets visitors in the Please Touch Museum's Great Hall. (Michael Branscom / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Tourist magnet

    Visitors view the high-definition LED screen in the main lobby of the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. This city best known to tourists for its historical sites and museums has a surprise new high-tech hit that began to develop into a must-see attraction in 2008. (Justin Maxon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Freedom rings

    Visitors listen to a Park Service guide's presentation about the Liberty Bell - an international icon of freedom. ) (Tom Mihalek / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A walk of art

    Andrew Wyeth's 1951 painting 'Trodden Weed,' displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest museums in the United States. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Benjamin in Philly

    Philadelphia's bronze sculpture, titled Benjamin Franklin Craftsman. The statue shows a young Franklin in the process of printing on a hand press. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania commissioned the work and presented it to the City on June 24, 1981. (Joseph Kaczmarek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A walk in the heart

    Schoolchildren stand in line next to a giant two-story papier mache-on-metal heart as they wait to walk through the Philadelphia icon at the Franklin Institute. The giant heart is one of the Philadelphia area's best-known icons, and a rite of passage for school groups across the region. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Nation's birthplace

    Independence National Historical Park where the Liberty Bell, an international symbol of freedom is hung. The park's World Heritage Site, includes Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were created. (MPI via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Musical magic

    The cello-shaped 2,500-seat auditorium of the Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. It was the first major concert hall to open in the 21st Century, and is one of the world's best performance venues. (Coke Whitworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Eagle eye

    Lincoln Financial Field, front, home stadium of the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles. Other sports complex buildings shown include the Veterans Stadium, the Eagles' former home, and Citizens Bank Park, right. (George Widman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Immortalized master

    A bronze bust of musical great Gustav Mahler, conceived in 1909 by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, exhibited next to other busts in the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Love in the middle

    Behind the fountain in JFK Plaza, Philadelphia's century-old City Hall is illuminated at night. (George Widman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments