Editors Note: This will be the first of a monthly series that will give everyone a front-row seat to the historical collection of the Franklin Square Museum, which will open to the public as soon as permissible.
The Monroe Street School was constructed in 1912 when it replaced the old Washington Square (Munson) schoolhouse at Dogwood Avenue and Nassau Boulevard, which was then known as John Street. When the school was constructed, a bell was placed in the attic that would summon students to school each morning from September 1912 until the school closed in June 1975.
Then, at its April 28, 1976 meeting, the Franklin Square Board of Education presented the bell to the Ben Franklin Bicentennial Committee for preservation.
At that same meeting, plans for a Franklin Square Museum were also formally announced for the first time, and the Board of Education signed a charter authorizing the museum. The Monroe Street School bell therefore marks the symbolic beginning of the Franklin Square Museum, and was the Historical Society’s first official acquisition for it, even though a number of items — principally photographs — had been collected before this date.
The bell was cast by the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, New York and is dated back to 1912. The bell is 24 inches high and 23 inches in diameter at the base. When it was at the Monroe Street School, students would ring the bell by pulling a rope from below.
It rang out several times during Franklin Square’s Bicentennial Parade on July 3, 1976 to the great excitement of spectators — in the public mind, it was associated with the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pa. The Monroe Street bell was then exhibited at the Bicentennial Fair at Rath Park, before being kept at the Historcal Society's temporary museum in the basement of the Washington Street School.
It later returned to the park in November 2018, and is now a centerpiece of the new Franklin Square Museum.
The Franklin Square Historical Society invites all residents to join our society, and receive copies of our monthly newsletter with details about the upcoming grand opening of the museum. Updates are also available on the Franklin Square Historical Society’s website at https://www.fshistoricalsociety.org .
Dr. Paul Van Wie is the president of the Franklin Square Historical Society.