DC Council continues search for Liberty Bell missing since 1981

The DC Council is continuing their search for a Liberty Bell that was gifted to the District in 1950 and went missing in 1981.

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The bell was gifted by the federal government to the city on July 20, 1950 as thanks for exceeding savings bond sales goals. It is an actual-size replica of the Liberty Bell located in Philadelphia. Each state, US territory and the Treasury Department itself received one of these bells.

The bell was first placed atop the District Building’s steps, now the Wilson Center, before being moved to a small triangular park in front of the building.

The Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC) was beautifying the Avenue around 1980, creating what is now called Freedom Plaza. A number of small monuments had to be temporarily relocated, including the Liberty Bell. 

All eventually returned – except for the bell.

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PHOTO: DC Council

The Council says communications with the exact PADC and District government staff who would have been most likely to have been involved in the bell’s relocation have led nowhere.

Press accounts indicate that the bell was still in place on April 2, 1979 but had already been declared missing on July 30, 1981. DC Council says they have a pretty tight window of time when the bell disappeared, but they do not know how, or where it went.

The Liberty Bell being sought is not the double-sized replica in front of Union Station, the actual-size replica located between the Treasury Building and the White House or the colorful Thai Grievance Bell located in the Wilson Building’s atrium.

In addition to tips regarding the Bell’s removal from Pennsylvania Avenue, and/or its present location, DC Council would also be interested in any of the following:

- Any contacts from, or information about, a minority contractor called G & C Construction, of Merrifield, VA. They had the PADC subcontract for the reconstruction of the sidewalks outside the Wilson Building, and may have useful information about its relocation.

- Photos of the Bell in front of the Wilson Building, prior to its disappearance. There are less than a half-dozen known photos of the Bell, so any additional photos would fill out the historical record.

- Memories of the bell. Council says they have been told it was a common landmark/location for people to meet up downtown (much like the Smithson statue in front of the Smithsonian Castle is today). Do you remember the Bell?


DC Council says no tip or clue is too small and to contact Josh Gibson at jgibson@dccouncil.us.