Knott’s Independence Hall is an exact, brick-by-brick replica of the original in Philadelphia. Walter Knott’s personal labor of love, it is the nation’s only exact replica of the Philadelphia landmark. The building was dedicated by Walter on July 4, 1966 after two years of research and numerous trips from Buena Park to Philadelphia.
Independence Hall was built by the Knott Family as a permanent, free-admission reminder of two famous events: the signing of the U.S. Constitution and the singing of the Declaration of Independence. An avid proponent of American history and values, Walter Knott constructed the building for the millions of West Coast families unable to travel to Philadelphia to tour the original.
The beloved building was re-dedicated on Constitution Day, Sept. 17, 1998, following an extensive, nine-month renovation. The goal was to restore the landmark facility to its original 1966 Opening Day glory as a tribute to founder Walter Knott and the values for which the Hall was built by the Knott Family.
Construction of the building began summer 1964. The Georgian-style building is an exact replica of the Philadelphia original – even down to the fingerprints in the 140,000 handmade bricks. This authenticity required a tremendous amount of effort and collaboration with Independence Hall experts in Philadelphia. Sketches, historical records, blueprints, photographs and measurements were used throughout the planning period. The interior paint colors had to be determined by removing numerous coats of paint in the Philadelphia original.
Even Knott’s Liberty Bell is an exact copy of the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia – and weighs just five pounds less than the original. Both bells were made with an alloy of zinc, copper and pewter. Insufficient amounts of pewter were located for the construction of the Knott’s Liberty Bell in 1965, so tin was substituted.
The construction of the Knott’s bell took three days – with the most difficult part being cracking the bell in exactly the right place! After two weeks of attempting to crack the bell using water, hammer and chisel, air hammer and acetylene torch, the construction crew finally succeeded with dry ice and a heli-arc torch.
Other elements of the building also reflect authentic attention to detail and include the Declaration Chamber, Supreme Court Room and numerous exterior elements including moldings, profiles, cornices, cupolas, window trim, exterior column capitals and bases; the 24-foot weathervane; four-sided clock with six-foot hands; the ormolux (gold-leafed ornamental olive branches that frame each of the clock faces); and the “widow’s rail” spanning the Hall’s 200-foot-long roof.
Currently, the building serves as the center for Knott’s “Adventures in Education” school program impacting 100,000 elementary-aged children annually with onsite lessons on American history, science and nature. The Hall also offers exhibits, historical reenactments and other free-admission presentations throughout the year.
Consistent with Walter Knott’s wishes, Knott’s Independence Hall remains a free-admission resource. The building is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday except Christmas. Free, three-hour parking is available daily in Knott’s MarketPlace Shopping and Dining Lot.