Saturday, July 3, 2021

Independence Hall at Knott's Berry Farm (55th Anniversary!)

In the 1960s, Walter Knott fulfilled a longtime dream of his, by building his own recreation of Philadelphia's Independence Hall.

He built his full-scale replica across the street from the family's already famous Ghost Town, and Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

The area across Beach Blvd. was known at that time as, "Knott's Lagoon." The Lagoon area included rides such as a miniature steamboat and train, built and run by Knott's "concessionaire," Bud Hurlbut.  By this time, Mr. Hurlbut had already completed construction on his Calico Mine Ride, and would go on to build his Calico Log Ride, both within Walter Knott's Ghost Town. 

The official dedication and opening of Independence Hall, took place on July 4, 1966.  Walter Knott can be seen below, speaking at the dedication ceremony.

Here's a modern day (2017) view of Independence Hall.

Just inside the entrance is the "Tower Room," and this impressive replica of the Liberty Bell.

The bell was faithfully recreated (right down to it's "crack") by Bud Hurlbut, who presented it to Walter Knott as a gift.

Bud can be seen above, and below (far right), along with his father, Ray Hurlbut (far left), and Walter Knott (middle).

Here are some more views of the Tower Room:

Beyond the Tower Room, in the northeast corner of the building, is the Declaration Chamber.  This sign explains the chamber's historical importance.

The Declaration Chamber has been recreated with exacting detail.

Within the Declaration Chamber, guests can experience a "sight and sound" reenactment of the debates, which led to the creation of our nation's Declaration of Independence.

Just to the east of Independence Hall, is a small brick structure.  It was once connected via a covered walkway, to a larger building to the north.  These buildings used to be the starting point for the Independence Hall tours, and where a "pre-tour" film would be shown.  The names of the buildings have changed over the years.  The larger building, was called Heritage Hall in it's earlier days, and was later changed to "Colonial Library," before ultimately being torn down.

This smaller building was also labeled at times, as part of Heritage Hall, but was being called the "Conference Room" by the 1980s, and was the location of my "cash handling" training, as a Knott's new-hire.  We were told that it was also the room where the Knott Family held their "board meetings."

And just south of the "Conference Room" building, is a replica of John Chester French's statue, The Minute Man, recreated by famed Knott's artist, Claude Bell.  The inscription on it's base is the first stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Concord Hymn, and reads:

"By the rude bridge that arched the flood.  Their flags to April's breeze unfurled.  Here once the embattled farmer stood and fired the shot heard round the world."

The statue used to stand at the corner of Beach Boulevard and Crescent Avenue, with Independence Hall centered behind it, in the distance.  The statue was moved to it's present location in 2000, when Knott's built it's Soak City waterpark, right smack in front of Independence Hall.

Now, let's take a look at some vintage Independence Hall "ephemera," starting with a couple of vintage postcards:

The same view today:

 The same view today:

An Independence Hall brochure dated 1969, but reissued multiple times after that date (note the park's Roaring 20s area, listed on the map):


 A Liberty Bell brochure:

Most of the brochure gives the history of the real Liberty Bell, in Philadelphia.  I had forgotten some of the history, about how the bell was completely melted down twice and recast, after it's initial cracking.  And also how it's second/final cracking occurred 83 years later!

Individual tickets were available for admission and a guided tour. This ticket stub is from the late seventies and is a personal souvenir, from the very first time I went inside Independence Hall.

 The reverse side:


This is an older ticket stub, for admission and the tour:

Attraction tickets at Knott's were given a "letter" grade/rating, just as Disneyland's tickets were. The Knott's system of rating was the opposite of Disney's, so an "A" Ticket (as seen below) was the equivalent of an "E" ticket at Disneyland. Tickets for the rides inside Knott's amusement area, could also be used for attractions located outside of the park. As stated at the bottom of this "A" ticket, it could also be used at Independence Hall or Henry's Auto Livery.

This ticket is from 1975. By this time, Independence Hall had been downgraded from an "A" to a "B" ticket.

The Knott's Adventurer's Club was similar to Disneyland's Magic Kingdom Club. Card holders were entitled to discounts on special tickets and ticket books.  Included in a special 1976 Knott's Adventurer's Club Ticket Book, was this extra "Bicentennial Bonus" ticket for Independence Hall.  (I should mention that today, admission to Independence Hall is free to everyone.)

These next items are souvenirs that were once available at Knott's.

An "antique-style" wash bowl and pitcher:

A souvenir silver spoon:

A "half cup," for only "half" a cup of coffee:

A 1976 bicentennial badge/pin (made of plastic):

Here are two newer souvenirs.  In honor of Knott's Berry Farm's 100th anniversary (2020), they have been releasing a series of 100 collector's pins (one per week).  Last July, an Independence Hall pin (#23 in the series) was released, along with a ceramic "Liberty Bell" coin bank:

This year, a Liberty Bell pin (#72 in the series) was released:

Here's a unique souvenir.  It's an actual Independence Hall costume, from the 1970s.  In 1985, the Knott's Wardrobe Department held a sale for employees only, in order to get rid of some of the older park costumes that were no longer in use.  If I am remembering correctly, these dresses were being sold for one dollar.

The matching hair accessory:

Below, are some examples of the 1970s Independence Hall costumes in use:

We will end this post with a couple of related items.

For the 1970 Tournament of Roses Parade, the official Knott's Berry Farm float featured Walter and Cordelia Knott, seated in front of a floral recreation of Independence Hall.

In 1983, the Knott Family converted the Knott's Lagoon area, along with Bud Hurlbut's Lagoon attractions, into a parking lot.  Independence Hall was left standing, along with it's Liberty Bell that Bud had created.  Soon after that, Bud moved his antique Dentzel carousel that had entertained guests for decades at the Lagoon, to Castle Park, his own amusement park in Riverside, California

And in 1987, when the Knott Family got rid of Bud's Tijuana Taxi ride (formerly named "Antique Auto Ride" and "Merry-Go-Round Auto Ride") in Fiesta Village, he moved it to his own park, as well.  Both former Knott's/Hurlbut attractions can still be enjoyed at Castle Park, today.  Additionally, guests to Castle Park will also find Bud's own personal copy of the Liberty Bell, out on display in the park.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July!