A Trip to Liberty Square
Liberty Square is a relatively small portion of the Magic Kingdom. It only holds three attractions: the Liberty Belle, the Hall of Presidents, and the Haunted Mansion. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t jam packed full of theming and historical detail. As with the rest of the park, Imagineers went to great lengths to make sure that Liberty Square told a story: the story of Colonial era America.
Walt Disney was a passionately patriotic American. In his youth, he would dress up as Abraham Lincoln to recite the Gettysburg Address. This foreshadowed his groundbreaking, “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” which debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair. When Disneyland opened in 1957, he stated that the park was, “dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America… with hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” That same year, Disney released the film Johnny Tremain, based off of the novel of the same name by Esther Forbes. The book and movie tells the story of a young Bostonian boy at the beginning of the American Revolution.
As you enter Liberty Square, you’ll encounter a reference to that film. A sign near the tree provides a bit of history:
“The original Liberty Tree, a stately elm, was a rallying point for pre-revolutionary activities. The open space under its branches was called “Liberty Hall” and a flag pole was erected through its branches with a hoisted flag the symbol for action. Countless inflammatory cartoons and verses were nailed to its trunk and many Torries hung in effigy from its branches. Perhaps its proudest moment was the repeal of the Stamp Act when innumerable lanterns blazed among its branches for all to see.”
Unlike some of the trees in Walt Disney World (like Animal Kingdom’s baobab trees) this is an actual tree. It grew in another location before Imagineer Bill Evans moved it to its current home. The branches of the tree are hung with 13 lanterns, one for each of the thirteen original American colonies.
Visitors can also get an up close look at the Liberty Bell. Of course, the original Liberty Bell sits in Philadelphia. However, this is about as close as one can get without being there. The bell was made in 1989 and was cast in the same mold that made the original. It was made at the Paccard Bell Foundry in Annecy-le Vieux, France. It first appeared in the park for the Magic Kingdom’s 1989 July 4 celebration.
One of the more…unsavory details included in Liberty Square is the brown path running throughout the area. As you may or may not know, there was not a particularly effective sewage system in place in Colonial-era America. The brown pathway represents the open air river of sewage that would have run through the cities. Fortunately, Imagineers did not take their devotion to realism too far as it relates to this detail.
The Hall of Presidents, which contains Audio Animatronic figures of every American president, is built to resemble Independence Hall in Philadelphia. As a point of curiosity, there are only 44 figures in the Hall of Presidents. Why forty-four when we have had forty-five presidents? Well, because President Grover Cleveland served non-consecutive terms as the 22nd and 24th.
Another historical detail which Guests can enjoy are the stocks. In ye olden times, people could be sentenced to the stocks. Their heads and hands were placed through the holes and then locked into place. People were then free to throw food at them. At Liberty Square, you can place yourself (or a loved one) in the stocks for an amusing photo-op, but the throwing of food is highly discouraged.
Liberty Square is a lovely portion of the Magic Kingdom, and one which was built upon values dear to Walt Disney. Next time you visit, spend a little time enjoying the Colonial ambiance.