my quest to see all 57 Liberty Bell replicas cast in 1950 as part of
a U.S. Treasury Department savings bond drive, I’ve learned
there are many more full-size, functional Liberty Bell replicas in
this world — in locations far and wide— from fondue
restaurant in Delaware, to a park
in Tokyo, to
a front yard in Lomita California.
bells fall into disrepair. Some bells end up mothballed in a
warehouse like at the end of Raiders
of the Lost Ark.
Some bells simply, inexplicably disappear. This is the story of one
such bell — lost in plain sight. In Phoenix, Arizona. How does
a 2,080 pound Liberty Bell replica disappear in the middle of
America’s fifth largest city? We’ll get to that. But
first, we’ll start where every bell is born — in the
foundry — with someone who loves it very much.
cattle baron Phil Tovrea Sr. was on a business trip in May of 1950
and happened upon the Paccard
Bell Foundry in
Annecy-le-Vieux, France. As fate would have it, Paccard was casting
the original Liberty Bell replicas commissioned by the U.S. Treasury
Department as promotional tools for a bond drive.
Tovrea stockyards, sometime before 1950
met fifth-generation foundry president Alfred Paccard and was
impressed enough to order his very own Liberty Bell replica. The
Liberty Bell is a fittingly accessible American icon. In 1950, or
present day, If you’ve got the money and somewhere to put
can have your very own Liberty Bell.
Mr. Tovrea had plenty of money and the perfect place for his Liberty
Paccard, Tovrea knew a few things about carrying on the family
business. In 1883, at age 22, his father Edward Ambrose Tovrea
arrived in Arizona from his native Illinois (on a freight wagon, as
legend has it ). Living out the American dream, the elder Tovrea
opened a butcher shop, slung a ton of meat, earned the moniker “Big
Daddy” and became one of the biggest cattle barons in the west.
Tovrea had plenty of money and the perfect place for his Liberty
the 1920s, the youngest of five sons, Philip Edward Tovrea Sr.
started to assume the patriarchy from his father and earned his own
nickname, “Big Phil.” The Tovrea empire flourished under
Big Phil’s leadership. The Tovrea Land and Cattle Company
became one of the largest feedlots in the world, the estate grew to
include an eponymous
In 1947, Helen and Big Phil Tovrea opened the Stockyards Steakhouse
on the grounds of the actual stockyards.
original location of Tovrea’s Liberty Bell, on the grounds of
the Tovrea Land and Cattle Company, in front of the Stockyards
unlikely friendship between a larger-than-life American cattle baron
and fifth-generation French bell maker led to what may have been the
first privately-owned Liberty Bell replica in the world.
at the same time or shortly after the original 573 bells, Tovrea’s
Liberty Bell arrived in Phoenix only months after the state’s
official replica, #14, on display in the Arizona State Capitol’s
courtyard. Tovrea’s bell has no serial number but otherwise is
identical to the other Liberty Bell replicas.
official Liberty Bell replica. photo: Robert English
October 1950, Paccard returned the visit to his American friend,
stopping to see Tovrea in Phoenix on his way to Independence,
Missouri for the dedication ceremony of Liberty
Bell replica #54 —
a friendship token and return gift from the city of Annecy France to
President Truman’s hometown.
article in the Arizona
October 1950 details Paccard’s return visit to Tovrea:
BELL MAKER who really knows his Liberty Bells was in Phoenix
Alfred Paccard, who’s foundry in Annecy France produced the
replica of the Liberty Bell now displayed at the capitol building and
those in each of the 47 other states.
he’s the great-great-great grandson of Antoine Paccard, who in
1796 created the Liberty Bell now in Independence Hall,
Paccard is in Phoenix returning a visit to Phil Tovrea, the president
of the Tovrea Land
and Cattle Company, 5509 East Washington Street.
was a guest of Paccard in Annecy in May while touring France. While
there, Tovreainspected Paccard’s foundry and took a liking
to the replicas of the Liberty Bells being made for the 48 states.
he bought one to mount in front of Tovrea’s.
BELL is en route from New York to Phoenix. It will be set up in front
in a week or so.
flew into Phoenix Saturday from San Francisco.
on his way to Independence Mo, where he will present the replica of
the Liberty Bell to the relatives of President Truman’s before
(visiting) Iowa next week.
bell for Independence is a return gift from the city of Annecy, who
were presented with a Bell by John W. Snyder, secretary of the
Treasury, Sept. 4.
Packard, left, owner of the Packard foundry in Annecy, France, gives
specification on the replica of the Liberty Bell which Phil Tovrea
Sr. bought in France in May. Tovrea, president of the Tovrea Land and
Cattle company, will mount the replica in front of the company’s
administration offices, 5001 East Washington Street, next week. —
(Republic Staff Photo)
fortunes come and go, so too did the Tovrea empire. In the second
half of the twentieth century, the businesses were sold off, the city
of Phoenix purchased the castle, and a mysterious
the Stockyards restaurant carried on under new ownership, the
surrounding properties were abandoned and shuttered. Sometime between
the ’50s and the aughts, the Liberty Bell disappeared. In plain
sight. In the middle of Phoenix.
2004, the former Tovrea property was purchased and painstakingly
restored by the Jokake
the Stockyards restaurant was added to the City of Phoenix Historical
Register. It was during the 2004 renovation that the Liberty Bell
replica rose from the ashes.
Veach of Jokake Companies, who brought this story to my
attention, explains, “It was lost in the brush when the company
purchased the property. They didn’t know it was there.”
other suitors wanted to raze the entire property, which likely would
have spelled the end for the forgotten bell — in another stroke
of fortune, the new owners had a passion for historic preservation.
Jokake’s risk and investment paid off, and they got a little
more than they bargained for. Veach adds, “When they realized
what it was, they put it into storage until construction was complete
and then re-installed it with its original mount.”
was lost in the brush … they didn’t know it was
Tovrea’s Liberty Bell replica today. photo: Erica Veach
years after its initial installation, Phil Tovrea’s Liberty
Bell was beautifully reinstalled close to its original location —
in front of the restored industrial buildings which houses the Jokake
Company’s corporate offices along with other tenants. The
thriving as a reminder of Phoenix’s agricultural heyday.
a personal note, this is the first article I’ve written on a
bell I have yet to visit. I’m looking forward to a trip to
Phoenix sometime when it’s nice and cold in Colorado. It will
be the first time I see two bells in one city, and I can’t wait
to enjoy some steak, and some liberty — just like the cattle
True. The original Liberty Bell was cast by London’s Whitechapel