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Ring Tones

Courthouse bell to be placed
in yard for permanent display

Visitors will soon be able
to see and touch the historic bell

By Laura Hodges
Contributing Writer

(August 2011) – Not many people in the county have had a chance to see and touch the historic bell that once hung in the Jefferson County Courthouse cupola. They will be able to do that during the rededication festivities, set for Aug. 26-27.

Courthouse Bell

Photo by Laura Hodges

The courthouse bell
survived the May 2009
fire and has since
been cleaned.

Afterward, the bell will be housed in an enclosure, sealed off from the elements, on the west lawn of the courthouse. It has been restored and polished to a gleaming shine by H&D Professional Brass Polishing in Louisville.
The bell survived the Courthouse fire of May 29, 2009. Nine days later, workers hoisted it carefully out of the fire-damaged bell tower and placed it onto Main Street, where onlookers photographed it for hours. Unless they had made the difficult climb to the top of the courthouse tower, most people had never seen the courthouse bell.
According to inscriptions on the four sides of the bell’s surface, the G.W. Coffin & Co. made it in 1864 at Buckeye Foundry in Cincinnati. It is tuned to the letter E.
This bell is apparently a replacement for the bell that was installed in the courthouse when it was new. According to information on file at the Jefferson County Auditor’s office, that bell was installed in the bell tower on Nov. 9, 1855, and dedicated on Dec. 27, 1855. Its purchase price, $742.29, was paid by “subscriptions” given by the people of Madison. Made by the West Troy Foundry in West Troy, N.Y., it was “warranted to have a tone that was pleasing.”
This original bell fell victim to fire just four years later, in 1859. During that fire, the bell fell through the roof and landed in the basement. The replacement bell was not made until five years later.
The bell no longer has a clapper and cannot be rung. A digital carillon has replaced the bell in the new courthouse tower. It has the ability to play prerecorded music at set times – for example, the Westminster chimes on the hour or patriotic music on holidays.
The last person to ring the 1864 bell was county maintenance employee Duane Hall, who hit it with a mallet 90 times to punctuate the names read during a crime victims’ rights ceremony in April 2009.

Back to August 2011 Articles.

 

 

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