The Icon of American Independence has roots in Lehigh Valley.

Each year, millions travel to Philadelphia for the Liberty Bell. The birth of our nation and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. However, did you know that the Liberty Bell was once hidden under the basement floorboards of a church here in Allentown, today known as the Liberty Bell Museum (622 W. Hamilton St.)? (The museum is currently closed because of COVID-19 but events have continued, virtually, on Facebook). 

It was September 11, 1777, the British defeated George Washington’s troops at Brandywine Creek, prompting panic among the people of Philadelphia who now found themselves defenseless against British occupation.

Recognizing that the city’s bells would likely be melted down to create weapons for the British army, a group of Philadelphians devised a plan to whisk the bells (11 to be exact) out of the city, including the most famous one known then as the Pennsylvania State House Bell. Escorted by heavy guard and hidden on a hay wagon, the bells would be sent away for safekeeping in a distant settlement; they chose Allentown, (formerly Northampton Town). The bells were hidden under the floor of the Zion’s Reformed Church, where they remained safe in hiding until the British left Philadelphia in June 1778. 

The museum tells the story of the bells, the Revolutionary War, and has quite a collection of artifacts and relics from the war, including letters written by soldiers to their loved ones. A visitor favorite seems to be the replica bell that has the exact same dimensions, weight and tone of the original Liberty Bell. There is just one important change: its crack has been painted on so that it can be rung.

Today a replica of the Liberty Bell is on display at the Liberty Bell Museum at the historic Zion’s Reformed United Church of Christ, which provided safe-keeping to the icon of American Independence all those years ago.

What’s your favorite historical site in Lehigh Valley?