Help Us Find the Liberty Bell

Just in time for the Fourth of July, the Council is launching a search for a missing Liberty Bell. Only with the public’s help will we solve the mystery and find this lost treasure.

What we are seeking is an actual-size, 2000-pound replica of the Liberty Bell, given to the District of Columbia by the federal government on July 20, 1950 as thanks for exceeding savings bond sales goals. Each state, US territory, and the Treasury Department itself received one of these bells.

The District’s bell was first placed atop the Wilson (then District) Building’s steps, before later being moved to a small triangular park in front of the building.

Around 1980, when the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC) was beautifying the Avenue, and creating what is now called Freedom Plaza, a number of small monuments had to be temporarily relocated. The statue of Alexander “Boss” Shepherd in front of the Wilson Building, the statue of Ben Franklin in front of the Old Post Office Pavilion, the Temperance Fountain by the National Archives, and our Liberty Bell were all moved off-site. All eventually returned--except for the Bell.

Extensive communications with the exact PADC and District government staff who would have been most likely to have been involved in the Bell’s relocation have led nowhere.

Press accounts indicate that the Bell was still in place on April 2, 1979 but had already been declared missing on July 30, 1981. We have a pretty tight window of time when the Bell disappeared, but we do not know how, or where it went.

[Note: The Liberty Bell we are seeking is not the double-sized replica in front of Union Station, not the actual-size replica located between the Treasury Building and the White House, and not the colorful Thai Grievance Bell located in the Wilson Building’s atrium.]

After our successful identification of the Council’s “mystery plaque” (which turned out to be a World War II memorial), and after the surprise discovery of a cache of photo negatives of the Wilson Building from the blizzard-plagued inauguration of President William Howard Taft, we are tackling another historical mystery: where is our Liberty Bell?

In addition to tips regarding the Bell’s removal from Pennsylvania Avenue, and/or its present location, we would also be interested in any of the following:

  • Any contacts from, or information about, a minority contractor called G & C Construction, of Merrifield, VA. They had the PADC subcontract for the reconstruction of the sidewalks outside the Wilson Building, and may have useful information about its relocation.
  • Photos of the Bell in front of the Wilson Building, prior to its disappearance. There are less than a half-dozen known photos of the Bell, so any additional photos would fill out the historical record.
  • Memories of the Bell We have been told it was a common landmark/location for people to meet up downtown (much like the Smithson statue in front of the Smithsonian Castle is today). Do you remember the Bell?

No tip or clue is too small—please contact Josh Gibson at 202-741-0897 or jgibson@dccouncil.us