Bicentennial Bell Project

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Rendering of the future Benjamin Rush Garden with the Bicentennial Bell by Studio Bryan Hanes and Holzman Iron Studio

Project Updates

 

On November 3, 2023, the Independence Historical Trust and Independence National Historical Park broke ground for the soon-to-be Bicentennial Bell in the Benjamin Rush Garden project.  The garden is currently under construction and is scheduled to be completed in summer of 2024. The full project rehabilitates the existing garden and includes connecting the upper and lower portions with a ramp to make the space accessible to all visitors, fixing the water feature on the north wall, and planting shrubs and other plants that were traded between Great Britain and her North American colonies during the 1700s. The garden will be the new home of the Bicentennial Bell which will be the first-time the bell will be on public display.

 

Click below to read the press release from the groundbreaking event.

Information on the Project

 

Independence Historical Trust and Independence National Historical Park agreed to partner with each other in 2014 to renovate a garden at the corner of 3rd and Walnut Streets. Known as the Benjamin Rush Garden, this space will be the future home of the Bicentennial Bell. The bell, which is a national treasure, has not been seen by the public since it was installed in 1976. This project will change all of that. Once rehabbed with new pathways, lights and flower beds, the garden will be the perfect setting for showcasing the magnificence of the bell.

 

The goal is to have this project finished and open to the public before we celebrate the 250th Anniversary of our nation in 2026.  Work has already started. The Trust hired contractors to work on the design and construction documents for the garden as well as create the armature to hold the bell. The National Park Service is funding the construction of the project. This is truly a wonderful example of the private/public partnership we are fortunate to have at Independence National Historical Park.

 

We would like to thank our donors who have contributed to this project and in particularly, the Landenberger Family Foundation for their support. Without their generosity , we would not have been able to start this project.  To learn more about the Landenberger Family Foundation and their contribution, click below.

Meet the Contractors

The contractors who are working on the Bicentennial Bell Project are all local, Philadelphia-area businesses.

Fiber Business Solutions Group, Inc. (DBA: G Force Engineering & Construction) was selected as the contractor to carry out the construction phase of the garden rehabilitation. G Force is a certified woman-owned small business that has previously worked with Independence National Historical Park. Most recently, they were selected as the contractor for the rehabilitation of the 18th Century Garden.

Studio Bryan Hanes, a landscape architecture and urban design firm was selected to design the greenspace which will showcase the Bicentennial Bell. Their design also includes interpretive plant beds as well as an updated water feature to the garden.  The firm has worked on other projects in the city which include Sister Cities Garden, the Rail Park Phase I, and Penn Treaty Park

Holzman Iron Studio Ltd., a Philadelphia-based team of artists and designers, was selected to design and fabricate the armature that will hold the Bicentennial Bell and complement the greenspace. The studio focuses on architectural ironwork, public art, and sculpture. Their work can be seen in Longwood Gardens, Bryn Athyn Cathedral, and St. Joseph’s University.

Dan Bosin Associates is the project manager for Independence Historical Trust. The Philadelphia firm has worked on iconic institutions throughout the city such as the Museum of the American Revolution, Walnut Street Theatre, and the Franklin Institute. Their experience
also includes multiple projects within Independence National Historical Park, including the Independence Visitor Center, the Liberty Bell Center, and the current rehabilitation of the First Bank of the United States.

Sautter Crane Rental is assisting with the rigging and reinstallation of the Bicentennial Bell into the Benjamin Rush Garden. The company has served the Mid-Atlantic Region for over 40 years, with notable projects such as the Delaware I-95 Bridge beam installation, Battleship New Jersey radar and mast removal, and the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

History of the Bicentennial Bell

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Bicentennial Bell – DART Container Line Docks – Tillbury, England (1976)

In the early 1970s, Independence National Historical Park announced its plan to build a new Visitor Center at 3rd and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia. In response, the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company offered $50,000 for the casting of a Bicentennial Bell to hang in the tower of that new Visitor Center. The casting was recommended for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, England (the same foundry that first cast the bell that later became the “Liberty Bell”). Shortly after the Hancock proposal was presented, the British Ambassador to the United States met with NPS officials to propose that the Bicentennial Bell would be a gift from the people of Britain to the people of the United States to celebrate the 1976 United States Bicentennial.

 

In January 1976, the molds for the bell were made. On March 4th, the bell was cast with a mixture of copper and tin during a 16-minute pour. When completed, the bell was 6’ 10” in diameter at its lip and 5’ 6” in height. It weighed approximately 6 tons.

 

The Bicentennial Bell was given to the United States of America from Great Britain in 1976 in honor of the 200th anniversary of American Independence. The bell, which was dedicated on July 6, 1976, by her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was given to show the joint heritage and purposes of the British and American peoples. On that day, Queen Elizabeth II shared her gratitude to America’s Founding Fathers for teaching the British “to respect the right of others to govern themselves in their own way.”

The bell was placed in a tower outside of the park’s original visitor center at 3rd and Chestnut Streets and resided there until 2013 when it was removed and placed in storage. Today, we are raising money to renovate the Benjamin Rush Garden at 3rd and Walnut Streets and relocate the Bicentennial Bell to this green space in the park. This project will prominently display the Bicentennial Bell in the garden and make it accessible to the public.  This will be the first time since being hung in the tower that people will be able to walk around the bell and see it up close.  There will also be an outdoor education area in the garden for students and groups to use when visiting the park.

Queen At Bicentennial Bell Ceremony

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.