Groundbreaking Held for New International Friendship Bell Peace Pavilion

September 22, 2017

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new International Friendship Bell Peace Pavilion were held the afternoon of Thursday, September 21, at the Bell’s new location in A.K. Bissell Park, just west of the Oak Ridge Civic Center.

"The Friendship Bell is a powerful symbol of hope, and it is a testament to the fundamental truth that despite past conflicts, we are stronger together in peace and harmony," said Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch, who served as master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking. "The Friendship Bell represents a bond of friendship, respect and unwavering support between Oak Ridge and the people of Japan."

The Oak Valley Baptist Church Choir presented a music program relating to the friendship and peace theme of the event. Pat Postma and Alan Tatum, co-chairs of the International Friendship Bell Citizens Advisory Committee, also took part in the ceremonies.


Major donors, including UT Battelle/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge Associated Universities and CNS – Y-12, will participate in breaking ground for the new pavilion. The Bell, created for Oak Ridge’s 50th birthday, is expected to bring its message of peace and friendship to the thousands of visitors expected at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Oak Ridge.

"During our City’s 75th Anniversary, we will acknowledge the tens of thousands of the best, brightest, bravest, and most patriotic men and women whose efforts on the battlefields, at Y-12, and at ORNL helped win World War II, the Cold War, maintain our national security, and deliver scientific advances which literally changed the world and enhanced the quality of our lives," Mayor Gooch added. 

Learn more about the 75th anniversary here.

The new pavilion for the Bell came about after city officials discovered that structural beams in the original Bell house had severely deteriorated. With the Bell housing in danger of collapsing, the City of Oak Ridge tasked the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board with making short-term and long-term recommendations.

A decision was made to demolish the original pavilion and place the Bell on timbers at the site. The advisory board formed the ad hoc International Friendship Bell Citizens Advisory Committee to develop a new pavilion design and raise funds for the project.

Architect Ziad Demian, founding partner of demian\wilbur\architects in Washington, D.C., designed the new Peace Pavilion and its surrounding plaza, with gardens and benches. He also attended the groundbreaking.

"It is right for us to come together as a community to break ground on this new home for the Friendship Bell," Mayor Gooch said in closing. "Going forward, we should heed its clarion call of hope; and honor the service and sacrifice of those upon whose shoulders we stand, by remembering that enemies can become trusted friends; that our strength requires us to seek peace; that with great power comes great responsibility; and that the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all God's children around the world are best when shared together. If we do, perhaps, it can be said of us on our City’s 100th Anniversary in 2042 that we were good stewards of Oak Ridge’s legacy of hope and friendship, and our community is stronger because of our collective efforts."

Read the mayor's full remarks here.

Following the groundbreaking, an International Day of Peace observance was held at the current Friendship Bell site in Bissell Park, just off Badger Avenue. The Oak Ridge Girl Scout Service Unit and the International Friendship Bell Citizens Advisory Committee hosted that portion of the event. The Oak Ridge High School Ensemble, directed by Amanda Ragan, The Sorta Singers, of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Girl Scouts provided music for the occasion.

Oak Ridge Girl Scouts and members of the Oak Ridge Rocks!! Facebook page also “Rocked the Bell” by placing rocks painted with a peace theme at the Bell site. They invited participants to take a rock to keep or relocate.