Trinity bell project hits halfway pointWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
The fundraising effort to restore the bells in the tower of Trinity Episcopal Church has passed its halfway point — but more people need to chime in to complete the project.
Wayne North, a local veterinarian, and The Old Trinity Foundation started the drive to raise the $50,000 needed to restore the bells on Nov. 30. About $27,000 has been raised so far from foundations and individuals.
“We’ve had a lot of individual donations from all over the country,” North said. He added that people from California, Texas and Florida have donated and many donors have past connections to the church.
The Waite-Brand Foundation, the Walter E. Terhune Fund and the Lamb Foundation have also donated, North said, adding he would like to see more support from Downtown businesses.
There are 12 stationary bells and one swinging bell in Trinity’s tower. The bells are bronze, meaning they are 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin, and weigh 9.6 tons together.
The largest bell is 4,600 pounds; bells today aren’t made to weigh more than 1,000 pounds, North said. The chimes have been silent for more than 20 years due to rust, weather and age.
In 1941, Ellen Gardner, whose brother designed the Gardner Building, purchased the bells to hang in the Downtown church in memory of her parents and siblings.
The Meneely Bell Foundry, established in 1826 in Troy, N.Y., made the Gardner Memorial Bells. The company closed in 1952, making the bells irreplaceable, North said.
North, formerly a member of the now closed St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, became interested in the bells when his congregation merged with Trinity at the beginning of 2012.
“One of the things that fascinated me was the bells. But when I went in and talked to people and said, ‘What about the bells?’ you’d get sort of these blank looks, like, ‘Bells, what are you talking about, bells?’” North said.
North and a representative from a bell company decided to go into the tower to see what was up there. The veterinarian was shocked to see the bells after his steep and dusty ascent into the tower.
“When I got up in the tower, I was absolutely stunned by what was up there, just sitting there,” he said.
“It’s really, really great to know we have this historic set of bells here in Toledo. I think getting them back into playable condition is really important and I think it’ll be a really wonderful addition to the Downtown area.”
Smith’s Bell and Clock Company, a Mooresville, Ind., firm, will oversee the restoration.
JJ Smith, the firm’s owner, said, “They’ve got enough bells here to make a musical scale and we can take advantage of that through our bell controller and preprogram songs to play throughout the day.”
Originally, the bells were played with a manual keyboard. In the 1970s, an electronic keyboard that stimulated direct current solenoids to ring the bells was used. However, the solenoids are no longer made so the new system will need striking hammers and a digital electronic controller.
North said because the new system will be digitized, a musician could record a song ahead of time on a flash drive and schedule it to play later as a concert. There is also an option to play live music.
Originally, North had hoped the project would be finished by spring, but now aims for completion by July 4 so there can be music during the firework celebration.
“We know that once we get the $50,000 that it’s going to be six to 12 weeks before we have the project completed, so I think we’re pushing it at this point,” North said.
Contributions can be sent to The Old Trinity Foundation, Gardner Bell Fund, 316 Adams St., Toledo, 43604. Those who donate more than $500 qualify for a tower visit if they are physically able to make the climb.
For more information, visit www.trinitytoledo.org/bells.html.