Since I recently wrote a feature article and a blog about the Hall of Presidents, I thought I’d write a companion piece about a few of the other, less noticed sights in the area. Let’s start with the porch to the right of the Hall of Presidents. Here you’ll find two rocking chairs. The setting, in and of itself, is picturesque, but to use these seats is even better.
If I may suggest, get a dessert from nearby Sleepy Hollow and enjoy it here. This is a wonderful spot to sit, relax, and people watch. Although it is possible to see the parades from here, I can’t really recommend this porch as a prime viewing location. Too many guests will be between you and the floats and only the upper half of these moving show pieces will be visible.
Near the entrance to Hall of Presidents you can find a little girl’s doll in the window. And to the left side and around the corner, take a look at the upper windows. Here you’ll find two lanterns. Remember the old battle cry, “One if by land, two if by sea.” You can also find a Minute Man’s rifle.
Across the street from the Hall of Presidents is Disney’s version of the Liberty Tree. The original Liberty Tree was located near Boston Common. On August 14, 1765, the Sons of Liberty gathered there to protest the Stamp Act. They concluded their protest by hanging two tax collectors in effigy from its branches.
In the years that followed, similar trees all across the colonies were designated “Liberty Trees.” As it was dangerous to assemble and protest during these trying times, the trees provided a meeting place that gave the appearance of a casual gathering beneath its branches.
The trees were often decorated with lanterns and banners. In addition, a pole would be erected within its branches as a signaling device. When a flag was raised (usually yellow), the Sons of Liberty knew it was time to meet. Disney’s tree sports thirteen lanterns – one for each colony.
Disney’s Liberty Tree is a Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) and was found growing on the southern edge of their Florida property. Determining that it would be perfect for the Magic Kingdom, the Imagineers decided to dig it up and move it. However, this would be no small undertaking. It’s estimated that the tree weighed more than 35 tons and its root-ball measured 18’x16’x4’ around.
The tree could not be lifted by placing cables around its trunk. Its weight would cause the cables to slice through the bark and into the soft cambium layer. This would seriously damage or possibly kill the tree. Instead, two holes were drilled horizontally through the trunk. Metal rods were then inserted into these bores and cables attached to the ends. Lifted by a large crane, the tree was transferred to a flatbed truck for transportation to the park. Once at the Magic Kingdom, the cables were reattached and the crane lowered the tree into place. The rods were then removed and replaced with the original plugs.
Unfortunately, these plugs had become contaminated during the move and caused an infection to grow within the trunk and eat away a portion of its interior. To remedy the problem, the plugs were removed and the diseased sections of the tree were cleaned out. This time, the holes were filled with cement. In addition, a young Southern Live Oak was grafted to the base of the tree. At one time, you could see these scars, but the bushes have grown up around the tree and they are now hidden.
Disney produced a movie in 1957 titled Johnny Tremain. Based on Esther Forbes' book, the story tells of a lad who was badly injured as an apprentice silversmith then finds himself deeply involved in the American Revolution. In one scene of the movie we see Johnny and the Sons of Liberty hanging lanterns on the Liberty Tree. Some of the music used in this movie can be heard in the Liberty Square area. This film is available on DVD.
Next to the Liberty Tree is the Liberty Tree Tavern. If you look around the restaurant’s perimeter, you can find some herbs growing and a kettle in which to cook a meal.
To the left of the Liberty Tree Tavern is a replica of the Liberty Bell. Cast from the same mold as the original, this bell was created for the Walt Disney World Resort in 1989.
Circling the bell are the flags of the original thirteen colonies. Near the base of each flagpole is a brass plate with the date that the state ratified the Constitution.
Also in the area is a sign with a lengthy history of the Liberty Bell -- so lengthy that I doubt that many of you have taken the time to read it while standing in the hot Florida sun.
To help you out, I’ve copied it for you here. Enjoy.
The Liberty Bell
The Province Bell was the name first used to describe me. I was ordered from the English bell foundry of Whitechapel in 1751 by the Pennsylvania Assembly. I was to be part of the celebration which would commemorate the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges signifying the founding of Pennsylvania.
Soon after being brought to America from England it was decided to test me for tonal quality. For this purpose I was hung in the notch of a tree and struck. With the first stroke of the clapper I sang out a glorious note. However, with the second strike I cracked and then gave off a terrible sound.
Two Philadelphia metal workers, Pass and Stow, melted me down, added more copper and recast me. I was now an American bell although everything about me was the same as the first bell, including the inscription “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” and “By Order of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania for the State House in Pennsylvania.”
People now know me as the State House Bell. At first my only duty was to call the legislature to assemblies. However, as English rule became more and more intolerable I was used to summon people together to discuss and protest issues they considered unfair.
I was muffled as a symbol of protest and tolled slowly when the Sugar Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765 were passed into law. I continued to toll for the First Continental Congress in 1774. The time I remember best was on July 8, 1776, when I summoned the citizenry for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. It was during this era of unrest that I became known as The Bell of Independence and The Bell of Revolution.
During the Revolutionary War I was wildly rung to signify each victory and muffled and tolled slowly to announce each defeat. The people could judge the success of the war effort just by the way I was rung. I became so important to the people that when Philadelphia was invaded by advancing British forces, I was taken to Allentown, Pennsylvania and hidden in the floorboards of a church so the British wouldn’t find me. After a year in hiding, I was returned to the State House in Philadelphia. On September 3, 1783 I was rung joyously to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Paris which ended the war between Great Britain and the United States.
After eighty years of almost continual use, I was rung to mourn the death of Chief Justice Marshall on July 8, 1835 and cracked. In 1846, I was rung for the last time to commemorate George Washington’s birthday. Although I can no longer be actually rung, I still occupy a special place in American history. The Herald of Freedom and the Liberty Bell are the names by which I am best known today; and perhaps these are the names which best describe me, for when the freedom and liberty of the United States hung in the balance, my voice was used to rally the people to the cause of liberty.
Cast from the same mold, this bell is a “Second generation” of the Original bell that hangs in Philadelphia. It was cast for Walt Disney World Resort in 1989.
The previous post in this blog was Swiss Family Treehouse.
The next post in this blog is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.