NCSU to unveil first bells for tower

Posted April 1, 2012 3:02 p.m. EDT
Updated April 2, 2012 5:42 a.m. EDT

— Ninety-one years after construction started, the first bells for North Carolina State University's bell tower have arrived on campus.

The N.C. State bell tower was started in 1921 as a memorial to the school's 34 alumni killed in World War I, but it was never completed.

Thanks to an effort started by the class of 2010, the university will unveil the first three bells of a planned five-bell set at a ceremony Monday.

The class of 2010 donated $56,000 for the largest bell – a 2,000 bronze behemoth that rings the hour tone. The Helena H. Gardner bell and the W.F. Morris Sr. and Jr. bell were donated by their families.

The bells will be stored until the university acquires two more to complete the Westminster Chime set.

In 2008, Matthew Robbins, then a graduate student in architecture, discovered the original plans that would have outfitted the tower with 55 bells. He and class president Jay Dawkins started a student group called "Finish the [Bell]Tower" to raise money to finish those plans. The bells are all being bought with private donations.

The 115-foot tower is a campus landmark and the setting for such popular events as the Krispy Kreme run.

Financial difficulties plagued the construction of the bell tower during the Great Depression. The Works Progress Administration finished its outer shell in 1937.

Student efforts in the 1940s and '50s secured lights and interior items for the bell tower but never succeeded in getting bells. Instead, an electric chimes systems was installed and is still used today.