by D.J. Wilson –
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In light of the recent election outcome, during times when our nation stands deeply divided on political, economic and social issues, we draw upon the spirit, strength and lessons gifted to us by our forefathers. One way to do so is to visit Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. It is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the fifth-most-populous city in America. Philadelphia was founded in 1682, by William Penn, to serve as the capital of the Pennsylvania Colony. Located along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, Philadelphia’s central location in the colonies rendered the city a natural meeting place for our founding fathers. It is one of the most important historical cities in the United States, playing instrumental roles during the American Revolution, in the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787. Philadelphia also served as one of the nation’s capitals during the Revolutionary War and as the temporary U.S. capital while Washington, D.C. was under construction. The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are two ideal destinations for those who wish to reconnect to America’s history during these politically uncertain times.
The Liberty Bell was formerly placed in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall. The bell was commissioned in 1752 from a London firm originally titled Lester and Packer. It was cast with lettering from part of Leviticus 25:10. “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all inhabitants thereof.” It first cracked when rung after arrival in Philadelphia and had been recast by local workers, John Pass and John Stow, whose names appear on the bell. The bell had an important use, for it summoned lawmakers to legislative sessions and alerted citizens to public meetings and proclamations. There is no proof of the Liberty Bell ringing for the Declaration of Independence; though most historians believe it was one of the bells rung. During the 1830’s, the bell was adopted as a symbol by abolitionists, who labeled it “the Liberty Bell”. Over time, in the early 19th century, it acquired a noticeable crack. The bell, owned by the City of Philadelphia, was sent to various expositions and patriotic gatherings. Crowds gathered to see it, even chipping away parts for souvenirs. The city, fearing damage, stopped showing the bell in 1915. After World War II, the city awarded custody of the bell to the National Park Service, while still retaining ownership. In 1976, it was moved from its longtime home in Independence Hall to a nearby glass pavilion, and then to a larger Liberty Bell Center in 2003. The bell is proudly displayed as a symbol of American independence.
Helpful visitor information: The Liberty Bell is located on Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets. It is open year round, with hours varying seasonally. No tickets are necessary for admission and it is free to the public. Visitors must go through security. During busier peak seasons, be prepared to wait in lines to see the bell. Once inside, audio taped presentations are available in many languages.
Independence Hall is a main attraction to Independence National Historical Park. A tour of this historic building provides education of America’s past and causes us to reflect upon our government’s current struggle to maintain our forefathers’ beliefs. Independence Hall was constructed between 1732 and 1756 to serve as the State House of the Province of Pennsylvania. From 1775 to 1783, it was the meeting place of the Second Continental Congress. On July 4, 1776, in the Assembly Room of the building, the Declaration of Independence was adopted. The same room took on additional importance, for it was there the design for the American flag was agreed upon, the Articles of Confederation were adopted and the U.S. Constitution was drafted. Guided tours of Independence Hall are led by National Park rangers. Many of them are quite dynamic, sharing engaging and informative educational information. For example, did you know there are 39 names on the constitution but only 38 signers? John Dickinson of Delaware gave permission for his colleague George Read to sign his name if he wasn’t present. Independence Hall maintains its 18th century charming brick Georgian appearance. The building contains a tall wooden steeple and many interior period pieces, such as the “rising sun” chair used by George Washington while presiding over the Constitutional Convention. While visiting Independence National Historical Park, spanning roughly 50 acres within the historic district of Philadelphia, it’s important to see other notable buildings, such as the Second Bank of the United States, Congress Hall and Old City Hall. The park is proud to share the story of Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross, two of Philadelphia’s most famous citizens.
Helpful visitor information: The Independence Visitor Center is located at the corner of 6th and Market Streets in Old City, Philadelphia. Street parking is often difficult to find. If you plan to drive into the city, it is best to park at the Independence Visitor Center underground parking garage, located on the east side of 6th St., between Arch and Market Streets. For entrance into Independence Hall, tickets are required offering a specific day and time. Independence hall tickets are free on the morning of your visit at the Independence Visitor Center starting at 8:30 am, with the first tour beginning at 9:00 am. Tickets, designed to eliminate wait time, go quickly. They can be reserved on-line, with certain rules applying. Hours vary according to season.
Today, Philadelphia is a unique mix of old and new features, attracting tourists worldwide. The narrow cobblestone streets of Old City stand testament to those who long-ago bravely paved America’s path to freedom. The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are cherished symbols of American history, reminding us of honest principles upon which our nation was built. As proud expressions of our forefathers’ beliefs of courage, wisdom, and virtue, they provide visitors with renewed strength in these indeterminate times. Thus, Philadelphia is the perfect place to rekindle our American Spirit.
For information on national historical parks, visit: www.nps.gov