Iconic Memorial Bell Tower renovations underway

NCSU Bell Tower_1, 2019
The N.C. State Memorial Bell Tower with scaffolding on Sunday, September 22, 2019 (The North State Journal)

RALEIGH — The NC State University’s 1,400-ton granite Memorial Bell Tower, which sits on a 700-ton concrete base, will be getting some much-needed attention over the next year with roughly $6.5 million in restoration and completion work.

Vance Sykes, a member of the class of 1907, is credited with the idea of building a monument as a way to honor NC State alumni who died fighting in World War I. That idea turned into a bell tower that cost over $150,000 to build and is known as “a legend in stone.”

The Memorial Bell Tower stands at 115 feet tall and is one of the most readily-identifiable symbols associated with NC State University. It was completed in 1937, being formally dedicated on Nov. 11, 1949.

In the 82 years since the completion of the tower, time has taken its toll.

The N.C. State Memorial Bell Tower with scaffolding on Sunday, September 22, 2019 (The North State Journal)

Fencing went up in late August in preparation for the restoration of the Memorial Tower that will begin this Fall and is expected to last just over a year.

Items to be addressed during the repairs and renovations include extensive water damage, a revamp of Henry Square, a new HVAC system and various accessibility issues.

While the interior and exterior of the tower will both be updated, the most important part will be the installation of a 55-bell carillon and playing cabin just below the clock area. Up until now, only a recording of bells chiming had ever flowed from the tower.

The 55 bells are a gift from Bill and Frances Henry of Gastonia. The Henry family also has an endowment to provide need-based scholarships which was established by Bill and his brother, George.

Joining those 55 bells will be a bell purchased by the Class of 2010 as a result of the Finish the Bell Tower campaign.

The traditional red lights that adorned the tower have been removed for safety reasons, however, the renovation does include plans to install new red lights and additional white lights that will be used to highlight the new bells.

About A.P. Dillon 69 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_