When the wind blows, the columns of bells sound against one another, further aural intrigue created by the more highly pitched wind chimes substituted for the the bells’ central strikers. A mysterious plaque, lacking in any artists’ marks, only reveals that the bells are exactly to scale, hand-lettered, and include cracks modeled directly from the Real McCoy.
It is only through much digging and inquiry that one finds the name of the building’s designers: Welton Becket & Associates. Becket, remarkably, is the same man responsible for such iconic architecture as the Capitol Records Building, the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, and the Cinerama Dome, among many other noteworthy structures.
The Macy’s in question was built between 1972 and 1973, and first operated as a Robinson’s department store. It is a mystery still as to the artist responsible for the bells. They are similar in appearance to the bells on other Robinson’s department store buildings designed by Becket’s sometimes-commission partner, William Pereira. However, none of Pereira’s buildings’ bells are Liberty Bell facsimiles, rendering this monument unique.
In January 2015, it was announced that Macy’s would close this location in the spring, and the bells were subsequently removed from the building and dispersed to various beneficiaries, including the San Fernando Valley Relics Museum in Chatsworth, which proudly displays two of them, hanging from the ceiling.
Visit California with Atlas Obscura Trips
Hip-Hop, Hippies, and Robots: Invention and Reinvention in San Francisco
We'll set out together, September 19-21, to explore unusual galleries, test our cocktail-making skills, and visit the city's best unofficial museum.