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Independence Visitor Center Finds Temporary Home During Gov’t Shutdown

By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Week two of the partial government shutdown is forcing one federally funded agency in Philadelphia to make a major adjustment to resume operations.

The Independence Visitors Center, at 6th and Market Streets on Independence Mall, has set up a makeshift operation inside the nearby Historic Philadelphia Center, at 6th and Chestnut.

By last Friday, Independence Visitors Center president and CEO Jim Cuorato says, he had had enough.

“Seeing and watching people come to our doors and pull on those locked doors and have them turn around disappointed reached a level where I thought we had to do something,” he said today.

Cuorato (second from left in photo) reached out to his neighbors at Historic Philadelphia, the privately run tourism center that runs many local tourist attractions.  President and CEO Amy Needle (third from left) immediately obliged.

“We are thrilled that we are partnering with the Independence Visitors Center,” she said today.  “They have come in and we’re delighted.”

It’s a scaled-back operation, with one or two Visitor Center staff members providing brochures, information about attractions that are open, and ticket sales.

Cuorato says he’s not violating federal regulations because he’s not using federal funds for any staffing or supplies.  The  government funds only 20 percent of the Visitor Center’s budget.

Meanwhile, Needle says Historic Philadelphia is also making adjustments to its premier attraction, “Independence After Hours.”  She says they have replaced two sites on the tour — Independence Hall and City Tavern, both closed by the government shutdown — with alternates (the Betsy Ross House and a former British tavern on Front Street).

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