The Liberty Bell is Missing: One Year Later

Not our Bell, but good leads as a result of public/media tips:

A year ago this time, we notified the public and the media that the full-size Liberty Bell replica that had graced the property in front of the Wilson Building from roughly 1950 to 1980 had vanished at that time and had not been seen since. (see original coverage here:

The short version of the update on our search is that the Bell still has not been found. But the longer version of the story is that thanks to tips from the public, as well as additional research, we have learned a great deal. A final round of public tips may very well put us over the goal line in our search.

[As examples, the press coverage of this story led to the public providing tips regarding a dozen bells in DC, MD, VA, and WV. Two of these bells, including one in DC, were previously little-known Liberty Bell replicas, though from the 1976 Bicentennial as opposed to the needed 1950s time frame. See the graphic above.]

As for the specific details behind our search, this time last year, we knew the Bell was still in place on April 2, 1979 but had been declared missing prior to July 30, 1981. It was unclear if the District government or the multi-agency Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC) moved the Bell. And of course, the destination of the Bell was unknown as well.

However, an October 1979 report we subsequently found at the National Archives provided much clarity regarding these questions. Among the revelations in this report:

 *   The Bell (as well as the nearby statue of Alexander “Boss” Shepherd) were removed from their original locations in early/mid 1979.
 *   Both were initially and temporarily moved just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue, to the site of the current Canadian Embassy and John Marshall Park.
 *   A Washington Post article mentions that the Shepherd statue was already at that site by April 14, 1979
 *   The report verifies the fact that the Bell and the Shepherd statue are both the property of the District government.
 *   However, for the first time, this report states unequivocally that “PADC moved the items and stored them” at the interim site mentioned above
 *   The report states “The Liberty Bell has received no consideration as yet and it is necessary that the DC Government attend to both of these matters immediately.”
 *   On this subject, it concludes “The DC Government must immediately (before week of October 22) inform PADC as to the disposition of the statue and bell, from storage at the Canadian Chancery site.”

We already knew that at some point prior to December of 1980, the Shepherd statue had been moved to a Department of Public Works (DPW) site on Shepherd Parkway, near Blue Plains.

We have tracked down a surprisingly long list of former DC and PADC workers with some memory of this nearly 40 year old situation. Yet none have been able to close the loop. We would be thrilled to talk to any and all others.

These are the questions we need answered to fill in the remaining gaps in this mystery and conclude the search:

 *   Does anyone recall seeing the Bell at the Canadian Embassy/John Marshall Park site in 1979?
 *   Does anyone recall seeing the Bell at the DPW/Shepherd Parkway/Blue Plains site, in 1979/80 or since?
 *   Can anyone, specifically DC staff, PADC staff, or especially contractors to PADC during this time, provide any clarity regarding the bell’s movements or temporary/permanent destinations?
 *   Can anyone provide information regarding who contracted and subcontracted with PADC during the 1979 timeframe?
 *   Do you have any photos, or even memories, of the Liberty Bell replica that was once located in front of the District/Wilson Building.

Any and all tips, no matter how incomplete, should be directed to Josh Gibson at or 202-741-0897. Anonymity of tips will be 100% respected. Even bad news would be helpful. We cannot solve this mystery without your help.  Thank you!