The International Friendship Bell, located in Oak Ridge’s A.K. Bissell Park, has been closed in order to assess damage to the housing structure in which the bell is displayed. A routine inspection by city staff late last year revealed cracking in the wooden support columns. Temporary fencing has been placed around the structure; additional fencing and signage will be installed this week in order to restrict direct access to the bell.
The structure housing the bell is a unique, open, timber-frame structure with six main timbers measuring approximately 12” square supporting the entire frame. A preliminary inspection by a local engineering firm has revealed significant wood root and deterioration to the structure. In addition, a large crack has developed in the stone wall supporting one of the columns at the south end of the bell structure.
Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson is requesting the community’s cooperation as the evaluation continues. “Regrettably, we need to prohibit access to the Friendship Bell in order to protect the public, and to minimize any potential damage to the 8,000-pound bell. Police and fire employees have been notified of the situation to be observant of any activity around the structure.”
A detailed report is being developed by the local engineering firm. Report findings will help determine cost estimates and schedule to repair, rebuild, or replace the structure.
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.”