The Washington state Liberty Bell replica is hidden away right in the center of town. Most visitors likely pass over it without noticing. It sits in a lush outdoor plaza on the back side of the beautiful 1911 Union Station building which served as the western terminus of Northern Pacific’s transcontinental railroad. The building now hosts the US district courthouse and a wedding rental facility replete with gobs of Chihuly glass art.
The bell can be seen from the Bridge of Glass, a 500-foot-long pedestrian overpass crossing the highway and train tracks. Built in 2002, the bridge connects downtown Tacoma with the Museum of Glass on the Thea Foss Waterway. If you’re picking up a glass theme it’s because the city of destiny is Dale Chihuly’s hometown and it looks like he and Tacoma love each other very much.
The Chihuly connection is actually less apparent inside the Museum of Glass which was hosting an impressive collection of art deco and modern glass pieces.
Recommissioned in 1994, the bell is in great shape. The original plaque looks like new mounted on a stand a few yards from the bell. Most Liberty Bell replica plaques are mounted directly on the ground and many are worse for wear and tear.
One of the few bells not located in the capital city, I’m not sure how the bell ended up in Tacoma and not Olympia, but I’m glad it did. Tacoma is a lovely little college town with cool shops, great seafood and the architecturally significant Stadium District.
Cursory research reveals that Tacoma suffers from an undeserved bad rap. Home to a paper mill and oil refinery, Tacoma smells like either money or hot puke, depending on who you talk to. According to local legend, the smell was so noxious it chased the otherwise unflappable Bruce Springsteen out of town in 1984 (after he played two 3.5 hour shows). Happily, the Aroma of Tacoma was hardly noticeable on the day we visited.
The Tacoma Liberty Bell replica does not have a fake crack painted on (my preference). However, if you look under the “P” in the photo above, you can see discoloration from where a fake crack was once painted.
The dependable PNW rain cleared up just as we rolled into Tacoma and provided a pleasant visit with great natural lighting.
Oddly, while there are 55 total Liberty Bell replicas, the Tacoma Washington dedication plaque, and many others state there were 53 bells cast. Press clipping from 1950 mention 51 bells. The Liberty Bell Museum in Allentown PA lists 55 replicas, the locations of which I’ve documented here — so that’s the number I’m going with. Perhaps some additional bells were cast after the initial order.
While Liberty Bell replicas don’t get much press these days, there is a great 2010 piece from the Tacoma Weekly on this bell.
It’s been over a year since we’ve seen a new bell and the Tacoma trip inspired us to get back out there. We’re thinking about a Northwest trip this summer to bang out Oregon, Idaho and Montana. More to come…