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Published: Saturday, 12/1/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Effort seeks to raise $50,000 to fix beloved bells at Trinity Episcopal Church

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Gardner Chimes, a set of 12 bells at Trinity Episcopal Church on Adams Street in downtown Toledo, are examined by JJ Smith, president of Smith’s Bell and Clock Service Inc. of Mooresville, Ind. The Gardner Chimes, a set of 12 bells at Trinity Episcopal Church on Adams Street in downtown Toledo, are examined by JJ Smith, president of Smith’s Bell and Clock Service Inc. of Mooresville, Ind.
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It is a haunting, tender moment: A 16-year-old girl from another era manually manipulates the giant church bells that chime to the melody of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

The moment was recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder on June 2, 1945. The location, a bell tower at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Toledo.

Installed in 1943, the The Gardner Chimes — 12 bells weighing 9.6 tons — eventually fell into disrepair and have remained silent for 20 years.

Those bells may ring again this spring if the Old Trinity Foundation can raise $50,000 to pay for repairs. The grass-roots organization launched its fund-raising campaign Friday.

The organization hopes to raise the money through corporate and private gifts, organizers said.

Photo gallery: Trinity Church's Gardner Chimes

Audio: Gardner Bells chime

“It’s very hard to put a value on this project,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Hoster, rector at Trinity Episcopal Church. “When you think of the soundscape of the city — when you enter the city and hear something like this — it says you have more than just cars driving by.

“It will give a sense of pride to the city,” she said.

The Old Trinity Foundation is launching a fundraising campaign to restore the Gardner Chime, a set of 12 bells at Adams Street church in downtown Toledo. The Old Trinity Foundation is launching a fundraising campaign to restore the Gardner Chime, a set of 12 bells at Adams Street church in downtown Toledo.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The bells were a gift from Ellen Gardner, who died in 1960 at the age of 93, said Wayne North, chairman of the restoration project..

Ms. Gardner’s family were “true urban pioneers,” settling in Toledo in 1852, and raising their family in a home at the corner of Madison and Superior, he said.

Ms. Gardner’s brother Charles, an architect, designed the six-story Gardner Building in 1893. Constructed of reinforced concrete, it was one of the first “fire-proof” office buildings built in Toledo.

Ellen Gardner’s father, Darwin Gardner, was a customs collector, and owned the Maumee toll bridge until it was destroyed by an ice flow in 1867.

Ms.Gardner purchased the bells in memory of her family, Mr. North said.

The bells, he said, were originally played using a manual keyboard. In the 1970s, the manual system was replaced by an electronic keyboard that activated direct current solenoids.

Now, the solenoids don’t work and are no longer made, said JJ Smith, owner of Smith’s Bell and Clock Service Inc., a Mooresville, Ind., firm that is overseeing the restoration.

Restoration will bring a new ringing system, using striking hammers and a new digital electronic control, Mr. Smith said.

The bells, which are 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin, are in “great” condition, he said.

“Basically, these bells will be here forever,” Mr. Smith said.

Lifetime Trinity parishioner, Jane Gomersall-Zohn, 79, remembers when the bells were installed.

When she was 14, she was among a group of teens to sneak into the bell tower at night and set off several rounds of fireworks.

“It was a long, steep climb,” she said, referring to the three flights of stairs and trap doors leading to the bell tower. “It was a great view, especially if you were lighting the sky with Roman Candles.”

The now-retired high school biology teacher said the sound of the ringing bells added character to the city.

“I remember on Sundays they would play the bells,” Mrs. Gomersall-Zohn said. “They were very pretty.”

When restored to working order, the bells will be used as a timepiece and as an instrument, playing free recitals during national and civic events, Ms. Hoster said.

More information is at www.trinitytoledo.org/bells.html. Checks can be mailed to Gardner Bell Restoration Fund, 316 Adams St., Toledo, OH, 43604.

The goal is to raise the money by early January and to have the repairs completed by spring, Mr. North said.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.


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