Liberty Bell Gets A New Address

A National Park Ranger stands guard as the Liberty Bell is slowly moved in Philadelphia Thursday Oct. 9, 2003. The Liberty Bell, the cracked symbol of democracy, began a history-steeped procession Thursday, embarking on a nearly 1,000-foot journey from Liberty Bell Pavillion to its new home at Liberty Bell Center.
The Liberty Bell, the cracked symbol of democracy that once hung in Independence Hall, safely arrived at its newest home Thursday after a 1,000-foot journey from its previous display at the Liberty Bell Pavilion.

The bell arrived shortly after 11 a.m. at the Liberty Bell Center, a new facility constructed as part of a sweeping $314 million transformation of Independence Mall. Workers then hoisted the fragile artifact into place.

Earlier, after a town crier in colonial garb rang his bell and said "Oye, oye, clear the way for liberty. Let freedom ring. Let freedom ring," five men wearing hard hats pulled and pushed the bell, mounted on a specially designed wheeled crate, from a wooden platform outside the pavilion onto a path to its new destination.

The procession featured re-enactments of the nation's history, with vignettes including historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, as well as American Indians, civil rights activists and recent immigrants.

Phil Sheridan, spokesman for Independence National Historical Park, said the move to a new location was necessary to provide space for displays and exhibits around the bell.

The movement and condition of the bell were electronically monitored through special sensors, said Andrew Lins, chairman of the conservation department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Lins said the bell would be strapped to the ends of the cart to prevent it from swaying.

At a dry run of the procession two weeks ago, a forklift carrying a deadweight equivalent to the bell rolled over a drain cover and broke it, making a "loud crunching noise," said Karie Diethorn, chief curator of the park. The forklift has been abandoned, and planners have continued to tinker with some of the details.

The move comes three months after a mishap at the National Constitution Center, whose dedication ceremony was marred when a 650-pound frame fell over, slightly injuring five people and narrowly missing the guest of honor, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The 2,080-pound bell was delivered to Philadelphia in 1752 and hung in the Pennsylvania State House, later Independence Hall, starting in 1753 before being moved to the Liberty Bell Pavilion for the bicentennial in 1976.

The pavilion and the new center are located only 300 feet apart, but the procession was designed to travel across the flattest terrain possible and generate public attention.