6 Liberty Bell
Since July 4, 1776, when it rang to signal the reading of the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell replica has hung at The Liberty Bell Center in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and has come to represent American independence. The original bell was recast twice, the first time in 1753 when it broke during testing in London and the second time to improve the sound.
It was nearly sold as scrap metal seventy years after it was recast for the second time. Only because it would have cost more to drop “the one-ton monster from its four-story perch in Independence Hall” than the $400 municipal authorities demanded for the bell did it get rescued from the scrap heap. Gary B. Nash, retired professor of history at UCLA, remarked, “It’s pretty much a wonder that the thing still exists.”
Despite not having had any professional training in architecture, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) read extensively on the topic. For the mansion he intended to erect on property he had acquired in 1768, Jefferson chose to design it himself rather than opting for “a stock design” and engaging a contractor to oversee construction.
Following the passing of his wife, Martha, in 1782, Jefferson served as ambassador to France before coming back to Virginia to build a new Monticello. He quadrupled the size of the old home and expanded the already sizable gardens by adding fruit and vines.
Because of his extravagant spending, his daughter Martha Randolph was forced to sell the estate in order to pay off her obligations. A real estate investor named Uriah Levy purchased Monticello in 1836. He conserved and renovated the property with the help of his nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy.
Monticello was bought by the charity Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923, and it is currently used as a museum and educational facility.