Old Congregational Church bell comes down

Old Congregational Church bell comes down

Bidder selected but funding from Scituate Art Festival in question

SCITUATE – They’ll hear the bells on Christmas Day.

Or so town officials hope.

Barring “any major catastrophes or holdups,” the bell atop the Old Congregational Church on Greenville Road will be restored and ringing again by Christmas, says Town Council President John Mahoney.

The town on Tuesday, Dec. 5, awarded the job of installing new electronic chimes in the bell to Vermont-based Church Specialties Inc. The bid for that piece of the restoration came in at $7,100.

Labor to restore timbers and trim will cost $5,000, paid to low bidder Aucoin Construction, of Scituate. Mahoney said actual restoration of the the bell’s surface might be done for free, making his goal of coming in under the $25,000 the council previously allotted for the bell restoration project well within reach. There are a number of smaller costs associated with the project, including rental of a crane and other equipment.

Mahoney said he approached leaders of the Scituate Art Festival about paying for the bell’s restoration, since the festival’s original mission was to use proceeds to maintain the historic church. He said he is planning to submit a grant application.

The council president said he “really hopes” members of the committee start focusing on the many projects needed at the church, including new paint and replacement wood for rotted areas. The structure itself is in good condition, he said.

Paul Levelly, head of the Scituate Art Festival committee, told The Valley Breeze & Observer Tuesday that all Scituate organizations are asked to submit grant requests by February, and the 40-member committee then decides on awards as a group.

The committee doesn’t typically hand out more than $8,000 in any lump sum, he said, and also doesn’t traditionally award money to a job that’s already been completed.

But, he conceded, the mission statement of the art festival does call for restoring the church, which is seen as a symbol of the annual fall tradition.

Levelly said he told Mahoney to break his grant request down into three parts, including the electronic chimes, the structure around the bell, and the refurbishment of the metal surface, and the committee will determine how many parts it can cover.

The festival committee has a total of $20,000 to $30,000 to hand out to 30 or more organizations asking for the money each year, including the local police and fire departments and area nonprofits, said Levelly. Dividing the money up that many ways “is a nice spread of the wealth,” he said. Giving all the money to one entity “kind of defeats the purpose of the art festival.”

Mahoney made the case that everyone gets to see and hear the bell, said Levelly, but money from the festival is designed to benefit as many organizations as possible.

“We try to give out as much as possible to as many as possible,” he said.

A previous grant went to the fire department to buy a new pair of cutters to remove a car’s roof, said Levelly. Firefighters had been unable to cut through a carbon roof during an accident using their old cutters, he said.

“It saves lives for residents of the town of Scituate,” he said.

Mahoney said the chimes installed by Church Specialties will run along the 31-inch diameter of the bell, which weighs much less than the 1,200 pounds officials had previously estimated, coming in at about 800 pounds.

The bell, once restored, will be able to be rung both manually and remotely, he said.

The Old Congregational Church, first completed in 1831, was given to the town in 1940 after a decline in attendance. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The bell was cast in 1830 in the Holbrook Bell Foundry of Medway, Mass. Owner George H. Holbrook cast some 1,400 bells out of his foundry between 1830 and 1840, according to records.

The Old Congregational Church is often rented out for weddings, said Mahoney, and he envisions bells being rung for such events. Replacement electronic chimes will trigger a spring-loaded mallet to strike the inside of the bell.

Mahoney said he’s been happy to see how many people have gotten behind the effort to restore the bell. With an initiative such as this, happening during the Christmas season, “party lines kind of dissipate and the people come together,” he said.

Workers remove the bell from the Old Congregational Church last Friday.
Scituate DPW workers John Rubiano, left, and Curtis Lotter work on removing the Old Congregational Church bell for restoration last Friday. The entire DPW is working on the project to restore the bell in time for Christmas.

Comments

Essential town priorities first.
The town website server has been down
For a week, Mr Mahoney could you
Please make this a priority, to get back up
an running. With town hall virtually shut down it is the only means the public has to obtain information, on what is going on in our town.
Thank you

Using the word "restore" infers that the bell will work as it did originally, but this article mentions electronic chimes. Will the bell be restored or is it switching over to electronic chimes? Hoping the next article clarifies.

Neighbor, the bell already had electric chimes. Even though they're electric, they make the hammer function. The bell can also be run manually.