Contact: Marla Holt, Director
March 15, 2000
Long Silent Willis Hall Bells Ringing Once Again at Carleton College
Alums Provide for Restoration and Bells Now Chime on the Hour
Northfield, Minn. - The bells atop Carleton's Willis Hall can once again be heard chiming the hour, thanks to the generous gift of Charles and Sarah Schilling, 1936 graduates of the College who have fond memories of the bells during their years on campus.
Carleton has begun ringing the bells on the hour each day from 8 a.m. to midnight. According to archival records, the four bells used today were purchased in 1886, 14 years after the construction of Willis Hall, Carleton's oldest building. Manufactured by W. Blake and Co., the bells are installed on fixed mounts. They are 19, 23, 28, and 38 inches in diameter, and ring G#, F, C#, and G# tones, respectively.
The tone sequence the Willis bells will ring is traditionally known as the "Cornell" chime, because it mimics the chime used at the McGraw Tower at Cornell University. At the top of each hour, the three smallest bells ring a three-tone sequence of eight strikes, which is followed by the largest bell ringing once for each hour.
Carleton purchased the four Blake bells and Willis Hall's tower clock at the same time, and up until the late 1950s, the bells were rung every quarter of an hour to keep time across the campus. A fifth and swinging bell, manufactured by C.H. Meneely, was added to the tower at an unknown date, and is currently not in use.
Meyer, Borgman, & Johnson, Inc., an architectural consulting firm, recommended certain structural reinforcement be done to the framework from which the bells hang before ringing them again on a regular basis. Northfield Construction Company, Inc., did the actual restoration work, which included reinforcing the timbers with iron to handle the stress caused by the striking mechanisms. Since the Blake bells are stationary, they are struck on the outside by newly-installed hammers, which were manufactured by Schulmerich Carillons, Inc.
The bells are now controlled by a computerized electrical system, installed in a small booth just below the Willis Hall bell tower, and managed by Don Smith, senior climate control technician at Carleton.
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