Durfee Bells - Dedicated Bricks locations
Durfee Bells Ring Out Strong
Les Cory Class of 1956
At long last the Durfee Bells are back in Fall River and once again they stand ready to play the Durfee Alma Mater, Auld Lang Syne and scores of other pieces. On November 27, 2012 the bells, all hanging from their impressive new tower on the B.M.C. Durfee High School campus, were played for the first time in nearly 35 years.
There were 10 bells in the chime that was given by Mary Brayton Durfee Young in 1887 in memory of her son Bradford Matthew Chaloner Durfee after whom the high school is named. The bells hung in the belfry of the old Durfee High School on Rock Street until 1996 when they were removed and sent to the Elsbree Street campus. The Durfee Bells Preservation Society was incorporated in 2003 to restore and care for the bells and began a 10 year campaign to raise money to build a bell tower and refurbish the bells.
Sometime between 1996 and 2001, the smallest of the 10 bells was stolen from behind the field house leaving nine. Despite the offer of a reward for the return of the bell it was never recovered. Dr. Julie Cleare paid to cast a replacement bell in memory of the Cleare family. The Class of 1949 purchased a new bell to add to the chime and in the fall of 2012, the family of Allen Jarabeck purchased a beautifully refurbished 1,000 pound bell, bringing the total number of bells to 12. The 12 bells now in the tower, weigh approximately 6 tons. Each time a bell is added to the chime, the number of songs that can be played is increased. The goal is to have 14 bells which will make it possible to play the National Anthem and hundreds of popular melodies. Places are reserved on the chime frame for the last 2 bells and there will be 14 “keys” on the new clavier used for the manual playing of the bells when it is built.
The bells are clearly visible on the third level of the tower at the entrance to the athletic complex. Lighting, courtesy of Phillips/Lightolier illuminates the tower, the walkway and the bells beginning at dusk. As of the time of this writing (January 2012), the bells strike under the control of a computer every hour from 8 AM to 5 PM, 7 days a week. A GPS interface ensures that the bells strike precisely on the hour. About 20 songs are programmed into the bell controller and more will be added. The hope of the committee is that students will learn to play the bells and that the bells will be played regularly- at least one day a week - perhaps at the end of the school day.
Funding for the bell restoration project came entirely from Durfee High School Alumni and friends. No school, city or state funds were used. The committee is deeply appreciative of the support this project has received especially from readers of the Durfee Chimes. Well over 1,000 people have already contributed to the project and literally thousands of volunteer hours have been directed toward bringing the project to completion.
More than 1,000 engraved bricks have been placed in the “Pathway of Memories” and a number of engraved granite benches have been installed. The walkway and the tower are accessible anytime that the athletic fields are open. Arrangements can be made for people who want to visit the walkway at other times. As of January 2013, there is still room in the walkway for a few more bricks. After these remaining spaces are filled, new bricks will be placed in the circular seating area near the tower.
Work on the project is ongoing. A number of things remain to be done. The area behind the clocks still needs to be enclosed. To complete the chime, 2 additional bells need to be cast, tuned and installed together with their associated strikers and electronic controllers. Lastly, the committee would like to have manual ringing equipment installed in the glassed-in enclosure at the lowest level of the tower so the bells can be rung not just electrically as they are now but also by means of a manual clavier as they were for the first 100 years that they hung in the old tower on Rock Street.
The two remaining bells will cost about $8,000 each. If an individual or family purchases a bell, they may specify a name or short message to be cast into the metal of the bell. There is room in the walkway for about 20 more engraved bricks. Bricks are $100 each including laser engraving. Donations in any amount are encouraged to ensure successful completion of the project. Checks payable to Durfee Bells may be sent to PO Box 9235, Fall River, Mass 02720.