A work crew began taking apart the International Friendship Bell House located in Alvin K. Bissell Park on Monday.
A structural evaluation of the bell house earlier this year determined that most of the structure holding the 8,000-pound bell was beyond repair due to water damage to the support beams. The report recommended closing the International Friendship Bell House due to public safety concerns.
The city of Oak Ridge is now working with a number of interested citizens and the Recreation and Parks Board on a campaign to replace the structure with a new permanent building, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said in a recent press release.
Once the dismantling of bell house is complete, the Friendship Bell will be lowered to the ground. The bell will once again be accessible to the public for viewing purposes but not for ringing until the bell house reconstruction is complete.
The work to dismantle the bell house should be completed within two weeks.
The bell is a symbol of the friendship between Oak Ridge and Japan. The two countries were enemies during World War II, when uranium enriched in Oak Ridge provided the fuel for the atomic bomb, the first used in wartime, that was dropped over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.
The International Friendship Bell was cast more than 20 years ago under the sponsorship of the “Committee of 50,” as part of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Oak Ridge. It was presented to the city by the Oak Ridge Community Foundation in 1996 as a lasting legacy “to express for the future the profound longing and commitment to work for freedom, well-being, justice, and peace for all people of the world.”