Cornell to hold Return of the Bells Celebration

Cornell College is inviting the campus and local community to celebrate the return of a sound that hasn’t been heard for 70 years.

Following a restoration project on the King Chapel tower, people can now hear the four historic bells ringing out every quarter-hour as they did in the 1800s.

Who: Everyone is invited

What: Return of the Bells Celebration Picture of two historic bells in the King Chapel clock tower

When: Thursday, Jan. 16, 11:45 a.m.–12:05 p.m.

Where: Ped Mall Entrance of Cole Library on the Cornell College campus

Cornell College President Jonathan Brand will share a short history of the King Chapel bells, and then the community will be invited to step outside to hear the peal and 12 strikes at noon. Everyone will receive a packet of purple and white ecofetti to throw following the ringing of the bells.

The bells have a rich history on campus. They were installed in 1882, but the college had to stop ringing them in 1950 after engineers noticed they were contributing to the structural deterioration of the King Chapel tower. An electronic carillon began marking the hours. Eventually, one of the bells was moved to the top of College Hall, but that bell was later destroyed by lightning. 

A grant allowed the college to purchase a replacement. Following the reinstallation of that bell, crews re-established the connection between the bells and the tower clock. Now the college is happy to hear all four ringing again. 

The King Chapel tower project, including work on the bells, the tower structure, and the historic Seth Thomas clock and its faces, was made possible through a generous gift from Trustee Linda Webb Koehn ’66, and her husband Tom. Other contributors include the State Historical Society of Iowa, the Stockman Family Trust, the Linn County Historic Preservation Commission, and the Nina E. and Victor D. Merveaux Endowed Fund for Historic Preservation.