Local News

Finally real bells: NC State bell tower gets major makeover

Posted December 8, 2017 5:27 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

— A focal point at NC State University is getting a major, multi-million dollar makeover that will add working bells to a Hillsborough Street campus landmark, the Bell Tower.

Campus visitors likely don’t know that the sounds from the iconic bell tower are piped through speakers from a recording.

The bell tower was originally dedicated as a World War I memorial for university alumni in 1949, but it’s been a bell tower in name only since then.

The tower serves as a prime gathering spot for campus celebrations and ceremonies.

The university and alumni are hoping to raise $3 to $4 million in order to add functional bells.

The bell tower and plaza renovation will cost upwards of $5 million. It is part of a larger capital campaign for the university.

Dr. Tom Stafford, former vice chancellor of student affairs, still gives tours of the famous bell tower and breaks the news.

The sound heard every half hour is simply a recording spilling from speakers controlled by a panel in another building.

"I was a little surprised," sophomore Casey Crouse said. "It's called the bell tower, and it's the symbol of our campus. So I think it's kind of funny."

University supporters Bill and Frances Henry of Gastonia are donating the funds, combined with gifts in recent years to purchase real bells.

The Henrys’ contribution will mean NC State's focal point will finally be refurbished, repairing decades long water damage and ultimately ring out with 54 bells.

"I think it adds to the historical element of the university," senior Olivia Hall said. "I think it seems more legit. You would expect a bell tower to be real bells, so it's cool to know that it will be."

The construction project will take around three years.

"All that time the bell tower has stood here patiently waiting its turn," Stafford said. "And now the turn has come for the bell tower and it's going to transform this iconic structure.