Local News

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

Posted November 19, 2008 6:12 a.m. EST
Updated November 19, 2008 1:10 p.m. EST

— 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.