Visitors to Philadelphia make sure not to miss Independence Hall, called the birthplace of our country and our founding principles. It was where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and debated and approved the Constitution in a building that opened in 1753. Outside of the Hall is one of the most significant monuments to our freedom, the Liberty Bell.
Thanks to Houston Baptist University’s own founding father, Dr. Stewart Morris, Sr., and his family, who made the first generous donation for the project, a life-size replica Independence Hall will be built in Houston to draw inspiration from the Founders’ vision for the United States.
The university raised more than $28 million in a 10-year capital campaign to carry an idea that Morris proposed in 2007.
HBU broke ground on the Independence Hall this year. The project is titled The Morris Family Center for Law and Liberty, and it will be located on campus at 7502 Fondren Road in the Southwest Management District.
The main building and its two wings, the East and West Dependency, are scheduled to open on July 4, 2022. Two new academic buildings will be added later in the same architectural style.
Dr. Christopher Hammons, director for the Morris Center for Law and Liberty and a professor of political science, said HBU has discovered that modern-day students generally lack knowledge of the founding principles of our nation.
“These principles that our Founding Fathers were passionate about unites people and brings them together,” Hammons said. “This is especially important in today’s world with the divisions we see. The school will teach that no matter what you look like, and regardless of your politics, you are welcome here.”
“We see this as an opportunity for a living history lesson for students, not just from our school, but for all area students,” he said.
Course work associated with the Center for Law and Liberty will be administered by HBU’s School of Humanities, which offers majors and minors in pre-law and criminal justice and minors in government, sociology, speech communications and other fields. The university also plans for the center to house bachelor and master degree programs in free enterprise and entrepreneurship.
The building’s main hall will be topped by a lighted tower 167 feet high and include a bell tower with a Liberty Bell replica. The interior will feature custom-made replica furnishings by New York-based designer Vincent Chicone, who makes pieces for the historic hall in Philadelphia.
While the first floor will be as exact a rendering as possible of the original Independence Hall rooms, the second floor will be a modern banquet-type space with a catering kitchen. It will be 17,000 square feet in size.
The facilities will also be a place for faculty workshops, guest speakers and teachers’ workshops. HBU hopes it will also be a destination for meetings by civic groups.
For more information, visit the school’s website at www.hbu.edu/school-of-
— by Arlene Nisson Lassin