Forty-six years ago, Queen Elizabeth II thrilled the Philadelphia region by visiting the city on the bicentennial of the United States.
She and her husband, Prince Philip, even came with a gift for the city: the Bicentennial Bell to honor 200 years of American independence from the very monarchy over which she reigned.
"…on the side of the Bicentennial Bell are the words "Let Freedom Ring," the queen said July 6, 1976, as she presented the bell to Philadelphia. "It is a message in which both our people can join and which I hope will be heard around the world for centuries to come."
The bell, however, remains in storage as a Philadelphia nonprofit continues to raise money to place the bell in a new park at Third and Walnut streets. A tentative date for the unveiling of the bell and its new perch is spring 2024, according to an official with the Independence Historical Trust.
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It's one of many remembrances across the Philadelphia region as the world reacts to Elizabeth's death at 96 on Thursday.
"The U.S. Congress was honored to host Her Majesty as she joined the American people in celebrating the bicentennial, and again for her Address to a Joint Session of Congress in 1991," wrote U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Her meaningful engagement with American leaders from President Truman to President Biden and her commitment to our countries’ Special Relationship greatly contributed to the enduring friendship between our nations."
U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who represents Bucks County and sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said the queen helped maintain a "steadfast connection" between Great Britain and the United States.
"America’s relationship with the United Kingdom has only become stronger during her tenure over the past 70 years," Fitzpatrick said in a statement. "Her reign coincided with 14 U.S. presidencies, and her rapport with American leaders has allowed for an active and steadfast connection between our two nations. Her exchanges with our nation’s leaders, particularly Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan, have created a longstanding bond that will carry on for years to come."
The queen's local connection will be renewed and strengthened in a couple years when the new park in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia opens with Elizabeth's gift to the city as the centerpiece.
The goal is to have the park dedicated and the Bicentennial Bell available to the public by around May of 2024, Jonathan Burton of the Independence Historical Trust told NBC10 on Thursday. The park will then be ready to be part of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States.
That'll be 50 years after the queen visited Philadelphia with her gift.
"We have raised $1 million and the National Park Service is giving $1 million," Burton said, adding that more donations are still needed. The public can give by visiting the Trust's website, he said.
"We do hope that members of the royal family will come for the park dedication, but we don't have confirmation of that yet," Burton said.