Published on July 23, 2022 at 08:07
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, in partnership with the Reformed UCC of Zion and the Liberty Bell Museum, dedicated an official marker at noon this month, commemorating the Liberty Bell hideout.
Introductory addresses were Liberty Museum Board Chairman Dr. Dennis Blankowitsch, Lehigh Valley Historian Frank Whelan, and State Senator Pat Browne, R-16.
“It was a long journey that came to fruition,” said the director of the Liberty Bell Museum. Rev. Joshua Knappenberger, “I’ve been at the museum for nearly four years, and Pastor Bob Stevens (then Zion UCC pastor) assigned me to this project on my second day on the job.”
“This is a very exciting day for Zion’s Church, the Liberty Bell Museum and for me personally,” Knappenberger said.
Knappenberger credits Browne for helping him secure the PHMC marker for the site.
A replica of the iconic bell, a mural depicting its journey, historical artifacts and artwork are on display at the Liberty Museum, which is in the basement of Zion UCC along Hamilton Street between Sixth and seventh streets, in Allentown.
“The Liberty Bell Museum 60th Anniversary: The Diamond Jubilee” exhibit, celebrating the founding of the Liberty Bell Shrine Museum in 1962, continues through September.
The original bell was cast in 1769 and donated to the Pennsylvania Legislative Assembly by King George II of Great Britain. The 2,080-pound bell was installed in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House, now Independence Hall.
In the mid-1770s, the 13 British colonies broke with England. Independence was proclaimed on July 4, 1776.
As the British Army marched on Philadelphia in 1777 to quell the American Revolution in its capital, the Continental Congress took action to remove the bell from the Pennsylvania State House, the bells from Christ Church Philadelphia, and other metal objects from the city threatened.
According to Knappenberger, it was difficult to locate two primary source materials as required in the marker application process due to the clandestine nature of hiding the bell.
Philadelphia resident Elizabeth Drinker noted in her journal dated September 23, 1777, “All the bells in your city are certainly removed.
A Moravian account of Bethlehem, written at the time in Pennsylvania German, describes an incident where the wagon carrying the State House Bell broke down in Bethlehem at Der Platz in front of what is now the brethren’s house. The wagon was repaired and traveled to Northamptontown.
Northamptontown was renamed Allentown in 1838 after its founder, William Allen.
The PHMC marker reads: “Liberty Bell Hiding Place. From September 1777 to June 1778, the bell of the State House was hidden here at Zion Reformed Church. The Continental Congress removed the bells from Philadelphia fearing British destruction. The bell now known as the Liberty Bell was turned into a national symbol by abolitionists.
Liberty Bell Museum at Zion’s Church, 622 W. Hamilton St., Allentown. Gallery hours: 12-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 12-4 p.m. second Sunday of each month, 12-8 p.m. third Thursday of each month. Information: libertybellmuseum.org; 610-435-4232.
Liberty Bell Museum director Rev. Joshua Knappenberger with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker that was dedicated July 16 at Zion’s reformed UCC in Allentown. The Liberty Bell was hidden there during the American Revolutionary War. PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURIER
The Liberty Bell Museum mural was painted by Wilmer G. Behler (1915-1994). The scene depicts the Liberty Bell’s 1777 journey from Philadelphia to its hiding place in Zion’s Reformed Church in Allentown. PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURIER