As far as noisemakers go, bells are beautiful but difficult. Take the century-old specimen that hung atop Stephens Hall at Towson University: until last month, the school’s 39-inch diameter, 1200-plus pound bell was heavily corroded and rarely used. And no wonder — it hadn’t been moved since it was first installed in 1915.
For much of its life, the bell had the job as bells worldwide — ringing every hour on the hour. But with the advent of wristwatches and cell phones, that public timekeeping role became less essential. The neighbors started complaining about the noise. In the 1990s, the bell fell silent, rung only on special occasions.
But now that it’s been cleaned and restored by Maryland’s own McShane Bell Foundry, Towson might find some more use for the old guy. Not only did McShane restore the bell’s original golden patina; it also installed an electronic ringing system programmed with ring tones (in the old-fashioned sense) for celebratory, sad, and ordinary occasions. The school has promised to keep the bell to a strict 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. schedule, so as to not bother the neighbors.
Look at more before-and-after photos of the bell’s restoration on WBAL’s website here.