Philadelphia's old Liberty Bell pavilion on its way to Alaska

Gift to become a part of 'Remembrance Park' in Anchorage

Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

PHILADELPHIA - With the deafening blast of its air horn, a tractor trailer carrying the remains of the 30-year-old Liberty Bell pavilion left Independence Mall for its new home in Alaska.

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The truck pulled away amid a light drizzle in front of the former pavilion site, revealing the newly unobstructed view from Independence Hall to the National Constitution Center two blocks north on the mall.

About 85 percent of the pavilion - including granite, copper cladding, pine flooring, windows and window frames - will become part of "Remembrance Park" in Anchorage.

"We are blessed to receive this fabulous gift," said Bob Halcro, an Anchorage car rental magnate who spearheaded the park project. "I assure you it will be well used."

Halcro said the park will commemorate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and will include a reproduction Liberty Bell, made at the same London foundry as the original bell and supported by the bell stanchions from the pavilion. It also will include a 780-pound section of twisted steel recovered from the World Trade Center and a rock from Plymouth, Mass., though specific plans are still taking shape.

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The pavilion's removal is part of a larger effort by the National Park Service to make Independence Mall more attractive and visitor-friendly.

The pavilion housed the Liberty Bell from January 1, 1976, until October 9, 2003, when it was moved into the nearby Liberty Bell Center, also on Independence Mall. Before it was placed in the pavilion 30 years ago, the bell was on display in the foyer of Independence Hall.

The architectural firm Mitchell/Giurgola Associates in 1975 designed the low-slung modernist structure, which was created to be the bell's permanent home. Almost from its inception, however, critics said its design and placement clashed with the historic area.

Before it was disassembled, the pavilion was used for security screening, but the National Park Service offered it to anyone who would remove it. A local college wanted the structure for its campus, which has other buildings by Romaldo Giurgola, but could not raise the funds to move it.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said her state was honored to be custodian of the "cradle of the Liberty Bell" and said the park would help Alaskans connect with the nation's early and current history.

Three tractor trailers were carting the pavilion remnants to a freight train station for the three-week, 5,400-mile trek to Anchorage. Norfolk Southern Corp. was transporting the materials for free, Mayor John F. Street said.

Street also presented engraved bricks from the old pavilion to officials from 10 Philadelphia labor unions, which donated 180 workers and thousands of labor hours to dismantle the 2,800-square-foot glass and granite pavilion for transport - saving taxpayers about $300,000.

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