Gazette article shares history of Cornell bells
The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette turned back the pages of time to explore the bells in the King Chapel clock tower.
The article, “Time Machine: The bells of Cornell College” looks at the very beginning days of our historic campus.
“Cornell College was founded in 1853. In 1882, a large stone chapel was opened on the Mount Vernon campus, with a massive clock and bell tower on top that would chime the hours for decades. In 1888, the bells inspired Cornell student Kate Dougherty to write a song, ‘Chapel Bell.’ And in 2020, the chapel clock and bell tower were restored, making it safe for the large bells to once again ring.”
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.