As part of a road trip from Boston to Washington, D.C. last summer, our family decided to make a quick stop in Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell! While there are plenty of other options that could easily fill a weekend, our stop was brief but full of history.
History of the Liberty Bell
Originally, the Liberty Bell was installed in the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall. The first bell was ordered from London in 1751, and was cracked on the first ring. The replacement was made in Philadelphia, and it lasted quite a bit longer, not developing a crack until the 1840’s. Interestingly enough, the fix for the crack was to make the crack wider! Unfortunately, this was unsuccessful, a second crack developed, and the bell was retired.
With an inscription like “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof,” you can quickly see why this bell has turned into much more than just a bell.
The inscription originates from the Jubilee in the Bible. Every 50 years, the Israelites were supposed to free their slaves and return property to the original owners. With a meaning like this, it is no surprise that the abolitionists used this bell and motto in their efforts to free the slaves!
Later on, the Women’s Suffrage movement also used this bell as a focal point in encouraging people to allow women to vote. They made a replica of the bell and traveled around the state with it.
We were also hoping to see the inside of Independence Hall, but learned that due to capacity concerns during Covid, they were requiring timed entry. Since this visit was really spurn-of-the-moment detour from the freeway, that meant we just skipped – though we came away thinking that we should come down to Philadelphia for a longer weekend visit at some point, to see the many museums and such.
Some of the most interesting things that happened here included the the signing of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, as well as many of the debates regarding what should be in these incredibly important documents.
In absence of the official tour, we gave our boys a quick history of the building. To further illustrate the significance of the building, we pulled out a bill with Independence Hall on the back to show them (not necessarily a great idea in an urban area, but oh well). They were a bit embarrassed and refused to be in my picture, but I still had fun with it!
Both the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are part of Independence National Park. If you decide to visit these important historic sites, make sure you also stop by the Independence Visitor Center and consider if there are other places you might want to visit in addition to these important landmarks.
In our case, we decided relatively spur-of-the-moment to see what the Liberty Bell looked like. The Liberty Bell is something that most American school kids learns about in history class, and were wondering if the reality would match those lessons.
Getting there from the freeway wasn’t too hard – we just used Google Maps to find a parking garage near the Liberty Bell/Independence Hall downtown area, and parked. There isn’t significant street parking, and we had to walk 5-10 minutes from the garage to the site, but it wasn’t too hard for an urban/downtown area.
On getting there around 10am, there was a short line at the door, with a National Parks employee watching to keep the room from being too crowded. There were some exhibits about the history for a few rooms, and then the final room has the bell, with folks trying to get “selfies.”
The bell itself was big enough and nice enough, but perhaps not as grand as we envisioned from our grade school history lessons. It is worth seeing once, though.
Cost for Liberty Bell: Free
Cost for Independence Hall: $1 to make a reservation (currently required)
Visitor Center Address: 599 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Liberty Bell Center Address: 526 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Independence Hall Address: 520 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106