For the Bicentennial, the American Legion planned to build a statute of General John J. Pershing on Pennsylvania Avenue. But when federal funds for part of the memorial were not approved, the Legion instead donated an eight-ton replica of the Liberty Bell, cast by a well-known Netherlands foundry, to tour the U.S. on the American Freedom Train.
Congress approved legislation in 1976 to place the seven-foot high Freedom Bell somewhere in or around Washington. The National Capital Memorial Advisory Committee and the National Park Service then proposed a spot beside the Columbus Fountain outside Union Station, in what is now a bed of roses.
However, the Joint Committee on Landmarks, which oversees Washington's historic places, last spring opposed the plan as an inappropriate place for a Liberty Bell, "an aesthetically and historically unrelated object." The bell would detract from Union Station and the Columbus Plaza, "one of the most grandly and successfully conceived urban architectural compositions in the U.S.," the committee said.
Washington already has two of the more than 50 replicas of the Liberty Bell, cast in 1950 during a U.S. Liberty Bond drive. One sits outside the District Building and the other is on the west steps of the Treasury Department.
As more appropriate sites for the Freedom Bell, the Landmarks Committee recommended four traffic islands along Pennsylvania or Virginia Avenues NW and one on Massachusetts Avenue NE, where the bell could be "a focal point, not an extraneous object."
For the time being, the bell (which can be rung because the crack in the original Liberty Bell was not reproduced) now sits in a Park Service maintenance yard on Hains Point.