Contacts: Jane Cowley, e-mail us, 215-597-0060
Philadelphia - On February 18, 2012 the Centennial Bell that hangs in Independence Hall Tower started to chime the hour once again, inviting all Philadelphia residents and visitors to come out and see the newly restored national icon. Silenced while Independence Hall Tower was under scaffolding, the bell and clockworks were restarted to celebrate the successful completion of the tower rehabilitation.
Independence NHP Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod, Mayor Michael A. Nutter and members of Congress Chaka Fattah (PA-02) and Bob Brady (PA-01) marked the end of the project with a ribbon cutting ceremony. NPS Ranger Mary Town and Ms. Ellie Slomine, a recently naturalized American citizen who serves as the Director of Visitor Services at the Independence Visitor Center, were invited to start the clock mechanism and lights.
"The mission of the National Park Service includes preserving and protecting our nation's treasures for this and future generations. The work we have done on Independence Hall Tower is one example of how we preserve our nation's icons," said Superintendent MacLeod. "Our historical architects, tradesmen, curators and rangers are hard at work year-round preserving and protecting this and other historic structures in the park. I must thank the excellent work of the Daniel J. Keating Company who put their heart into this project as contractors."
Mayor Nutter added, "Completion of the Independence Hall Tower rehabilitation is the last step in what has been a decade of improvements in this area, the most historic square mile in America. These improvements will enhance the experience of the millions of visitors who come to Philadelphia to see for themselves where our great nation was born."
The project gained momentum after an April 2007 investigation revealed significant deterioration of the exterior wooden siding at the fourth, fifth and sixth levels. Over the years, driving rain had rusted the iron rods securing the wooden cladding which, in turn, damaged the pine boards.
In addition to swapping the corroded iron rods for stainless steel and replacing the weathered wood and bricks, workers stripped degraded paint and applied new coatings, refurbished the copper urns and stabilized the large clock faces. While the glass in the clock faces, which dated to the 1970s, was replaced, the brass hands and numbers were regilded and returned to their home on the four faces of the tower. The weathervane was also regilded.
"Since 1950, the National Park Service has served as stewards for this national icon of independence," said Congressman Fattah (PA-02). "And Congress has been called on to provide major resources for Independence Hall and the surrounding park. This recent investment was no small project: $4.4 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Let the Centennial Bell ring out loud and clear for the American people who have stepped up once again and committed to protecting our national heritage."
Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of Independence, a decorative scrim featuring a screened image of Independence Hall Tower maintained the facade during the rehabilitation project. The scrim, which covered the scaffolding during the 18-month project, served both an interpretive and a safety and protection function.
The tower visitors see today was designed by William Strickland and erected in 1828. It is one of America's earliest examples of colonial revival architecture. Workmen removed the original tower in the late 18th century when it became structurally unsound. Under the stewardship of the National Park Service, Independence Hall has been restored whenever possible to its original late-18th century appearance, inside and out.
A unit of the National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park was created by an Act of Congress on June 28, 1948. Accredited by the American Association of Museums, Independence NHP covers almost 54 acres in Philadelphia's Old City, and includes Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and other historic buildings associated with the founding of the United States. The park is open from 9:00 am daily with the exception of Christmas day. A visit to Independence National Historical Park should start at the Independence Visitor Center, located at 6th and Market Streets. Here, visitors can pick up a park brochure, park map, and the free, timed tickets required for Independence Hall. For more information visit the park's website, http://www.nps.gov/inde or follow us at twitter.com/independencenhp.