"From the People of the Netherlands to the People of the United States." This simple dedication on the Netherlands Carillon expresses the gratitude of the Dutch people for American aid received during and after World War II. The carillon itself symbolizes the friendship between the people of the Netherlands and those of the United States... a friendship characterized by a common allegiance to the principles of freedom, justice, and democracy which has weathered temporary differences..
The idea for this symbolic gift came from G. L. Verheul, a Dutch government official in The Hague. When the concept took shape, the drive for funds to build the carillon and the tower met with generous response from all sections of the Netherlands. Queen Juliana endorsed the project, and on April 4, 1952, during a visit to the United States, she presented a small silver bell to President Truman as a token of the carillon to come. In ceremonies at Meridian Hill Park in Washington, D.C., the Queen spoke of the importance of the small bells of the carillon:
"To achieve real harmony, justice should be done also to the small and tiny voices, which are not supported by the might of their weight. Mankind could learn from this. So many voices in our troubled world are still unheard. Let that be an incentive for all of us when we hear the bells ringing."
During the next few years the bells were completed and sent to Washington, D.C. In 1954 the 49-bell carillon was installed in a temporary tower in West Potomac Park, where it was formally accepted by the United States. The present tower was built near the United States Marine Corps War Memorial and, the bells were installed in 1960. The carillon was officially dedicated on May 5, 1960, on the 15th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands from the Nazis.
Design and Construction
The 50 bells of the carillon were cast using a bronze alloy of approximately four-fifths copper and one-fifth tin. The total weight of the bells is approximately 30 tons (61,403 pounds). The largest bell or "bourdon" is 6 feet, 9 inches in diameter and weighs 12,654 pounds. The smallest bell or "treble" is 8 inches in diameter and weighs 35 pounds. Each bell includes an emblem signifying a group within Dutch society. The smallest bells represent the youth of the Netherlands. The verses cast on the bells were composed by the Dutch poet, Ben van Eysselsteijn.
The tower housing the carillon was designed by Joost W. C. Boks, a leading Dutch architect. It is an open steel structure reinforced by steel plates. The tower is approximately 127 feet high, 25 feet deep, and 36 feet wide. It stands on a quartzite plaza 93 feet square and is enclosed by a low, lava stone wall. Two bronze lions, designed by Dutch sculptor Paul Koning, guard the plaza steps. A rectangular staircase leads to an observatory platform from which a small circular staircase winds up to the glass-enclosed playing cabin 83 feet above the ground. Planted on the surrounding grounds are thousands of flowers, including tulip bulbs in the springtime.
50th Anniversary Restoration
With the imminent 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands in 1995, a group of prominent Dutch businessmen decided to establish a foundation to assist in the modernization and refurbishment of the carillon and the tower. These men were mindful of the original motivation of the Netherlands Carillon as a token of gratitude for American assistance in restoring Holland's freedom.
Together with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce in the United States, and with meaningful encouragement from the Netherland-America Foundation, they established a legal entity, Foundation Nederlands Carillon Washington D.C. 1945-1995, to raise the necessary funds that would ensure that the carillon would be completely modernized. The project, with strong financial support from the Netherlands government, moved ahead and the 50th bell of the Netherlands Carillon was officially dedicated on Friday May 5, 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.
The smaller bells were removed and returned to the Netherlands for work. The larger bells (which would have been extremely difficult to remove) were reworked in-place. The original playing console was removed and a new unit installed. The 50th bell was added to the carillon as a symbol of the 50 years of freedom enjoyed by Holland since 1945.