It’s Philadelphia’s other bell, the bigger, uncracked sister of the Liberty Bell. Britain gave the Bicentennial Bell to the city for America’s 200th birthday, but it’s been out of sight and out of mind since 2013. Now a nonprofit group is hoping to bust the bell out of storage and put it on proper display, a few blocks away from its better-known relative.
The 6-ton bell was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, the same 16th-century foundry that cast the Liberty Bell.
It was presented to Philadelphia in 1976 by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, who disembarked from the royal yacht Britannia on July 6 at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River. Their arrival marked the first time a British monarch had visited Philadelphia, birthplace of the Declaration of Independence that severed the Colonies’ ties from the crown.
The queen, a direct descendant of the patriots’ nemesis King George III, indicated there were no hard feelings. She told a crowd of 20,000 that the founding fathers taught her country “to respect the right of others to govern themselves in their own way.”
On the bell is an inscription reading:
“For The People of The United States of America
From the People of Britain
4 July 1976
Let Freedom Ring”
The bell was hung in a red brick tower at what was then the visitors’ center of Independence National Park, built specifically for the bicentennial. The National Park Service removed it in 2013 because the building and tower were being demolished to make way for the Museum of the American Revolution. The bell was crated up and stored in an undisclosed location, awaiting a new home.
Friends of Independence National Historic Park (FINHP), a nonprofit group that supports projects around Independence Park, has a new campaign to relocate the Bicentennial Bell to a garden at the corner of Third and Walnut streets, in the Old City neighborhood, currently known as the Benjamin Rush Garden. The group has a conceptual design, and is in the midst of raising funds, said Tom Caramanico, executive director of FINHP.
It would be called the Bicentennial Bell Garden and feature the bell in the center, a small plaque featuring Queen Elizabeth’s speech and benches and other plantings.
“This project will achieve the goal that was set when the Bicentennial Bell was cast in 1976: to show the world that two great nations that started in strife and war can become great partners and allies,” the group said in a statement.