This past January I traveled to Philadelphia to visit family. It was BITTERLY cold but that did not stop my uncle from taking me around. It had been a couple of decades since I had last seen Liberty Bell and my uncle told me the whole place had been re-done so off we went, from the Broomall area east towards the city.
Philadelphia grabs a hold of my imagination for two very important reasons:
- The history of this country is anchored to this city. Just thinking of all the important conversations and events that happened leading into our independence and afterwards is mind-boggling. The downtown retains some key spots that are just as they were but, of course, progress also has erased some of it.
- My family ended up in Philadelphia for a few years after leaving Cuba in the early 1960s. I was born after they left Philly but the city plays a key role in my family’s history so, though I didn’t live there and have only visited a few times, it is close to my heart. Just thinking all that my family must have gone through as recent immigrants moves me to no end.
The entire “mall” area around Independence Hall has been re-worked with the construction of a new visitor center and the National Constitution Center.
But the belle of the ball is still Liberty Bell.
It is housed at the visitor center as opposed to its former home – originally the Pennsylvania State House which is now known as Independence Hall (thanks in no small part to the fact that Philly is no longer the capital of Pennsylvania!). The visitor center is not overwhelming, in fact, it is very well designed and very informative. It is not the type of place you speed through the space to just get to the star of the show (well, maybe some do it…).
The bell, which weighs slightly more than 2,000 pounds, dates from the 1750s and is famous not only for being a key symbol of the United States’ nationhood but also for its crack. It earned it first crack when it first was rung after arriving in Philly… not an auspicious start but goes to show that you can’t go by first impressions! Anyway, the bell was recast to try to fix it but it cracked again in the 1800s and kept cracking over the years. We sure hope that crack is stable by now!
This building has had quite a life. Built between the 1730s and the 1750s to serve as the colony of Pennsylvania’s legislature, it hosted the Second Continental Congress during which the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Later it is where the constitution was drafted and signed. Both documents were signed in the Assembly Hall which is set up as it was back then. The building certainly has a special place in the history of the United States.
Today, a good bit of what is there are reconstructions. The central part of the building is original but the steeple and side wings are not. The wings were last re-built in 1898 – a little disappointing that it is not the original space but inevitable in many ways.
There are many more sites in downtown Philly to review our past and celebrate our nation. Make sure you make the time to explore one this birthplace of the United States’ birth! Happy 4th of July!