chapel bell

Evening sun shines on the chapel bell in North Campus on an unusually warm day in Athens, Georgia on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. (Photo/Caroline Barnes, http://carolinembarnes.wixsite.com/photography)

For students, faculty or incoming freshmen  walking on campus during the summer heat, there’s one thing missing — the clanging of the old Chapel Bell. 

The bell was packed up on May 20 to be sent hundreds of miles away for “extensive repairs and maintenance,” University of Georgia Executive Director for Media Communications, Greg Trevor, said in an email. It won’t be returned until early September. 

Past patch ups 

The last time the bell received treatment was in 2008. Following a Bulldog victory over Florida in fall 2007, accompanied by vigorous bell chiming, the yoke of the bell broke, causing it to fall a few feet onto the wooden platform that holds it up. Both the bell and the wooden tower in which it lives were repaired, and a new bronze clapper  was installed. 

Currently, the bell rests in the hands of Chime Master in Lancaster, Ohio. The company specializes in bell restorations. 

According to a report provided by Chime Master, repairs, restorations and installation services are expected to cost around $27,500. This does not include other potential costs that amount to just over $8,000. 

According to Jeff Crook, national sales manager and president of Chime Master, the Chapel Bell’s wheel was broken due to the amount of times the bell was rung, necessitating repair. Additionally, the stand that the bell rests on, which was rusted and undersized, will be repaired.   

Besides repairs, the addition of a device that will prevent the bell from being flipped over when rung will be added to prevent future damage, Crook said.    

“I think the bell will last a long time, but it’s hard to predict because there could be hidden flaws in the bronze casting, and over time smaller cracks can develop,” Crook said in the report. “But we can fix that. It’s likely that it will last past my lifetime and [many more] lifetimes.”         

Etched in history 

It’s not easy being a 184-year-old bell. Weighing in at 700 pounds, the Chapel Bell was cast in 1835 by George Holbrook of Massachusetts. As the history goes, it was one of  more than 10,000 bells cast by the Holbrook family during the foundry’s lifetime. The bell was placed in its current location, behind The Chapel on north campus, in 1913. 

Before it represented victory between the hedges, the clangs of the Chapel Bell were used to call students to classes, special events and religious services. The bell was also briefly used as a World War II air raid siren, according to its historical plaque. 

According to a UGA libraries online collection, the first time a victory ringing was mentioned in writing was in an 1894 Red & Black article. The article describes a football game between Auburn and UGA in Atlanta where the Bulldogs won 10-8. When the team got back to Athens, players and other Bulldog fans started a bonfire with cardboard boxes provided by local business owners, the article describes.  

“The night had far spent itself when the last echo of the bell was heard and the dying embers of the great bonfire was all that was left to remind the passer by that the great day was over,” the 1894 article reads. 

The first home football game of the 2019 season is scheduled for Sept. 7 against Murray State. According to the report provided by Chime Master, the “drop-dead installation date” of the bell is Sept. 5.

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