EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan — For the first time since the nation’s founding, “New York’s Liberty Bell” will not toll for a presidential inauguration next week.
The bell at Middle Collegiate Church in Manhattan has rung for the inauguration and death of every president, but due to damage from a massive fire on Dec. 5, it won’t ring for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
“We are gutted, our building is gutted,” said Rev. Jacqui Lewis, the church’s senior minister, at the time of the fire. “We are sad, we are crestfallen but we are here. No one died, thanks be to God and we’re not going anywhere, the fire will not stop our revolutionary love.”
The church, at Second Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets in the East Village, was engulfed in flames last year. The building was damaged, but the bell survived.
Our bell will ring again, and our love is still ringing. pic.twitter.com/BLofkL4HmT
— Middle Church (@middlechurch) December 13, 2020
As work continues to stabilize @middlechurch, our engineers have found that the church’s historic “New York Liberty Bell” was not damaged during last week’s devastating fire.
DOB engineers remain on site to monitor & assess the stability of the structure. pic.twitter.com/v5BPwuIUGl
— NYC Buildings (@NYC_Buildings) December 12, 2020
The bell, cast in 1729, according to archives from the New York Times, is older than the iconic Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
It tolled on July 9, 1776 to ring in the birth of the nation, and has rung for the inauguration and death of every president in U.S. history. It’s also been rung for momentous New York City events, including in remembrance of 9/11.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be inaugurated in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, though it will be much different than recent inaugurations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will likely be impacted by security concerns following then Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
While the church dates back centuries, its message is contemporary, progressive and inclusive. Middle Collegiate supports social causes like the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the LGBTQIA+ community. It welcomes all religions, races and sexual identities.
“We are anti-racist and believe firmly in the power of women to heal our world. We believe everyone should have enough resources to survive and thrive,” it says on its website.
Its current location was erected in 1892, but the congregation dates back to the 1620s
Editor’s note: This story includes previous reporting from PIX11’s Lauren Cook. Some dates have been corrected.