Ring the “Abolition Bell”


IMG_0333I’ve lived within Sunday-morning earshot of All Souls Unitarian Church for years without ever knowing that I was not hearing an ordinary church bell. For starters, Paul Revere’s son, Joseph Revere, cast the bell in 1822.  (Paul Revere also made bells–fitting, considering his historical claim to fame).

Church mythology has it that D.C. used the bell as an “unofficial city bell” for emergencies and city meetings until Dec. 2, 1859, when the church tolled the bell for the death of the abolitionist John Brown. D.C. denounced the church’s show of respect for Brown and stopped using the bell. Since then, it’s been referred to as the “Abolition Bell.”

Sunday, you can walk up the church’s clock tower and see the bell for yourself during the Partners in Preservation Open House. All Souls is one of 24 organizations competing for a share of $1 million dollars in grant funding from Partners in Preservation,  an initiative to raise awareness of the importance of historic places. All Souls plans to put the money toward restoration of the clock tower that houses the bell.


While you’re there, consider these other pieces of history:

  • It was a venue for demonstrators heading to the mall for MLK’s March on Washington.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt hosted integrated ladies’ teas there.
  • It was one of the first integrated movie theaters in the District.
  • When a police-sponsored boys’ club hosted at the church refused to integrate at the request of the congregation, the church kicked them out and started their own youth club.
  • The signing of D.C.’s same-sex marriage bill took place at All Souls.
  • (There is more on the church’s digital archives).

Curious District has a huge appreciation for our local environment and culture, which is why it is part of the Partners in Preservation Blogger Ambassador Program and is encouraging community members to get involved in this contest. You can vote for All Souls and see the other local landmarks in the running–including GALA Theater, Meridian Hill Park, and Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office–at the Partners in Preservation website.

The site that receives the most points will get their entire project funded. You can vote online daily at partnersinpreservation.com and check-in to the sites on Foursquare, Post on Facebook, Tweet and Instagram using #PreserveDMV to earn more points.



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