Local News

N.C. State returns historic bell to Raleigh fire department

Posted November 19, 2008

— During the 1940s, a bell atop Withers Hall was used to catch the attention of N.C. State students.

Over time, It fell into disuse, but remained on top of the building until a grad student researched its provenance and realized the 1,000-pound bell first belonged to the Raleigh Fire Department.

During the early part of the 20th century, the bell was used to alert volunteer firefighters. The number of rings would signal which ward of the city the fire was in. It was last used by the fire department to toll the death of firefighter in 1930.

No one is sure how it came to be use at N.C. State, but on Wednesday the university returned it to it rightful owners.

It is the oldest surviving artifact of the Raleigh fire department, cast in bronze in 1870. Fire Chief John McGrath called the handover a small but significant moment in Raleigh firefighter history.

After cleaning and restoration, the bell may be placed in the $226 million public safety building on which construction is to begin next year.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • scylon1 Nov 19, 2008

    WRAL, who is the grad student? This story is very bare bones and lacks much detail. The N&O did a story on it, very well written I might add. The title does make it look like it was stolen, when it in fact was given to NC State

    This story really lacks beef for where it's posted on the site. This is a great story and the other news outlets are beating you to the punch!

  • whocares Nov 19, 2008

    It just goes to show that there are still people who are interested in artifacts and take the time to do research to find out the why, when, and where. As for how they got the bell on top of the building, my guess is with a pulley system. This student should be commended by the City of Raleigh Fire Department for his investigative research.

  • robrcb Nov 19, 2008

    Here's a very good story about the bell:


  • jaredg Nov 19, 2008

    glad WRAL changed the title. the first one was misleading.

  • Pineview Style Nov 19, 2008

    Well, silly me, I thought that I was going to read about a good college prank, but I was wrong. So I thought I would "chime" in anyway with my original comment....

  • ms b Nov 19, 2008

    A nice story. It would be nice if a non-taxpayer fund could be established to restore the bell. It wouldn't surprise me if the bell came to be at State because RFD no longer needed it and State did.

  • texasncgirl Nov 19, 2008

    What a nice story. Everyone else is just whining. I, too, initially thought that maybe it was a pledge prank or something, but turned out to be a cool story. Thanks to the grad student who took the time to research it!

  • trainloadr Nov 19, 2008

    MY God! I just do not understand why so many folks wish to find fault. WRAL - whatever you do its probably going to be wrong. Thanks for the story.

  • uglytruth Nov 19, 2008

    How did someone get a half-ton bell onto the roof of a building without anyone knowing? Who? what? When? Why? how? All you gave us was "where?" and some history on the bell. This writer should have to re-do the assignment...and pick a more accurate headline.

  • anonemoose Nov 19, 2008

    Stolen bell was the first thing I though. Pledge prank. somebody is trying to work their way up to the pukelitzer prize.