Pocono Mountains this Sunday! - America 250 PA bell

Liberty Bell Sketch

This Sunday’s premiere on PTN for the show will include the segment on the America 250 PA bell coming to the Hawley Silk Mill. It came out great! Looking forward to the unveiling in the fall to bring the story full circle!

As part of Pennsylvania's preparations to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America, several full-scale bronze replicas of the Liberty Bell will be displayed in communities statewide. One of the bells is destined for Wayne County, specifically in front of the historic Hawley Silk Mill.

Federal and state officials, as well as Justin Genzlinger, president and CEO of Settlers Hospitality, which owns the mill, made the official announcement on site, Feb. 2. The Liberty Bell replica is expected to be dedicated here in the fall of 2024. 

"The America250PA Semiquincentennial Bells will lift up the stories of communities that have been untold or not widely known, yet shaped the history of the Commonwealth," said Cassandra Coleman, executive director of America250PA. "America250PA is so excited to be dedicating its second Semiquincentennial Bell at the Hawley Silk Mill this fall to highlight the remarkable work of the individuals — immigrants, primarily women — who helped forge this great nation during the Industrial Revolution right here in Pennsylvania." 

Communities, organizations and others apply to permanently host a bell, which is locally funded. 

Coleman said that Pennsylvania is the first state in the nation to have all counties pass a resolution for the 250th anniversary, becoming an official partner. Over a dozen programs and projects have been launched statewide to mark the observance. 

The Hawley Silk Mill was built in 1880 as the Bellemonte Silk Mill, a massive bluestone factory powered by the Paupack Falls in back. It was a center for employment, with many women, children and immigrants involved in silk production. Numerous other silk and textile companies followed. Honesdale also became an industrial center for this industry. For over a century, the Hawley Silk Mill was a silk or textile manufacturing site.  

"For the Hawley Silk Mill site, for over 125 years this has been an economic hub for the borough of Hawley," Genzlinger stated. He thanked the borough for its assistance when the Genzlingers and their partners developed the landmark site in 2009-2010 as a multipurpose facility, making it once again a focal point of activity.  

"Looking forward as we represent Hawley Borough and Wayne County in the Pocono Mountains, which is today a central hub for tourism in our region," Genzlinger said, "we believe this point of interest will have tens of thousands of not hundreds of thousands of people come and stay here." 

"We will tell the untold stories of how the mills were built in our community, and who worked in them, and I think that is the most significant thing in this project," he said. 

The bell will be supported in its collar immediately across from the Silk Mill entrance on the grounds next to the Cocoon Coffee House, which is part of the Silk Mill campus. The bell will be the focus within an amphitheater-style setting with benches, and panels erected in back telling the history celebrated here. Genzlinger said the Liberty Bell site will cost a bit over $350,000, all locally funded. 

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson will design the site. The Wilkes-Barre firm was the architect for the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia and designed the plan to repurpose the Hawley Silk Mill. 

Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-8) commented, "It is altogether fitting and proper... to recognize not only the 250th anniversary of the founding of our nation but also Pennsylvania's contribution to it. And we did so much; we have so much to be proud of... The Declaration of Independence was written here. The Constitution was drafted here, and those were contributions we Pennsylvanians fought for." 

Drew Popish, northeast regional director for the Office of Gov. Josh Shapiro, stated, "It is not just a privilege, but it is a necessity that we highlight these remarkable narratives... At the forefront of this endeavor is America250PA, a commission that is dedicated to commemorating and celebrating the 250th anniversary of our great country." 

State Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) shared, “America250PA well selected and designated the bell as the instrument for honoring our prized assets like we have here at the Hawley Silk Mill. Those assets that symbolize the energy, the idea, and the drive for our economy that was the backbone for our democracy. There was glory... and glamor in marking our journey, and there was tremendous toil and turmoil as well."   

The Hawley Silk Mill, she said, “is the perfect place to tell the stories and spirit of progress alive and instructive." Baker commended the Genzlinger family and others for having the vision and devotion to secure its rightful place on the National Register of Historic Places. "Here, the seeds were planted for an emerging labor movement that would yield vital worker rights and protection," she said, "and here was proof that women did not have to be relegated to the home but could take position and perform in the shop and the mill." 

State Rep. Joe Adams (R-139), a Hawley native, said as a boy he delivered newspapers to Sherman Mill, what is today Hawley Silk Mill.

State Rep. Joe Adams (R-139), a Hawley native, said as a boy he delivered newspapers to Sherman Mill, what is today Hawley Silk Mill. "Many of our friends, many of our family members worked in the mills; that is what people of Hawley did," he reflected. "It was a big industry, and it created a nice opportunity for families to stay here and make a living." 

County Commissioner James Shook, also a Hawley native, said he recalled seeing the many women coming out of Sherman Mill when their work was done. "It was just an amazing industry. There were so many people employed here," Shook said. 

The Pennsylvania Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial (America250PA) was established by the legislature and governor in 2018 to plan, encourage, develop, and coordinate the commemoration of the nation's 250th anniversary leading up to 2026. America250PA focuses on Pennsylvania’s role in that event. 

For more information about America250PA and the Semiquincentennial Bell project, visit america250pa.org. Information about Hawley Silk Mill is found at hawleysilkmill.com

Peter Becker has worked at the Tri-County Independent or its predecessor publications since 1994. Reach him at pbecker@tricountyindependent.com or 570-253-3055 ext. 1588.

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