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Bell Tower Update

From Donovan Larson

I had heard that there were problems with the bell mounts on one of the bells in

the church bell tower, which contain two bronze bells cast in St. Louis in 1881

and 1910. One of two ropes were removed to avoid the 1910 bell’s use.  

I contacted McShane Bell, which specializes in bell and clock towers, recently

relocated to St. Louis from Baltimore. The technician and I climbed into the

tower on February 29. The second (upper) ladder needs to be replaced.  (The first

one is a pull -down ladder mounted on the ceiling of the balcony stair well.)

Both bells swing on pivots (fulcrums) that are mounted on the cast iron

frames. The bells are hung with bolts (4/5) through the bell’s center, into the cast

iron yokes above. It appears that the reason that the 1910 bell is not used is

because those bolts are slightly loose. Otherwise, the cast iron yoke and wood

stiffeners seem strong and undamaged.

The tech pointed out that the 1881 bell is rung with the rope pull, which is

mounted on a 3 ft diameter wheel that rotates the bell. The wheel is cast iron on

this bell; the wheel on the 1910 bell is wood and not perfectly tight to that bell’s


A third rope reaching the bell platform is accessible from the balcony below, and

it operates a 15 inch striking hammer that is mounted and pivots next to the 1910

bell. When used, the bell does not move. It rings loudly, but less than if it were

rung by the clapper (if the bell were rotated/swung).

First, the wood ladder from the balcony ceiling to the bell platform needs to be

replaced (12 to 16 ft long).  Second, the bell pivots need to be greased, and all

bolts checked for tightness.  The tech noted that the slightly loose bolts holding

the 1910 bell to the yoke, may be frozen.

Third, we could purchase/install automatic clappers that would electronically

strike the bells with a push button, or from a computer connected by Wi-Fi, or a


Fourth, we will be offered a maintenance contract where the bells and equipment

will be checked/maintained, probably annually by this company.  

The photos will show that the floor holding the bells and frames are very

strong.  The space is dirty, and open to the weather.  The vented windows are

backed by hardware cloth, so birds are kept out.  I saw no evidence of bird

droppings. McShane Bell will send a quote for the various work items noted.

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