No, it’s not the Liberty Bell. But just like its world-famous Philadelphia counterpart, this shiny ringer now resides in a place of honor in the Valley city where its peals were heard regularly for 130 years.
Cast at a foundry in Medford, Massachusetts, this bell — which weighs in the neighborhood of 500 pounds — was purchased in 1842 for installation in the steeple of the city’s just-built courthouse, where it remained until 1973. In the 19th century, the bell was rung not just when court was in session, according to City Historian Mary M. “It was used to bring people together for any formal occasion,” she says. The arrival in the city of important guests (such as Civil War hero and eventual president Ulysses S. Grant, who once visited), the death of civic leaders, the opening of the county fair — the bell tolled for these and similar events.
By 1973, the courthouse was in need of a face-lift. The historic structure “was gutted and rehabbed into office space,” says Mary — but the bell never made it back into the building. “During the renovation, the bell tower was not adequately reinforced to support the bell’s weight,” she explains. It was put into storage in a county facility, where it remained for 40 years.
Out of sight, but not out of mind: In 2011, the local community college completed construction of an 85,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art education building in the city — which, among its many other bells and whistles, has a floor strong enough to support 500 pounds of cast iron. The bell was officially ensconced inside the lobby of this building in July. “Now, a whole new generation of people can see it — and ring it,” says Mary. “It has a beautiful tone.”
Do you know the city in which this regal relic is located? (Extra credit if you can identify the building it now calls home.) Submit your answer by completing the form below. The first reader with the correct response wins a prize. Good luck!