Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The Big Bell tolls, but just a bellwether

If you think you heard Founder's Bell in the last few hours, you're not imagining it. Building managers at One South Broad Street have succeeded in getting the 17-ton bell to sound, but just once or a few tolls at a time. They're still working on getting it to ring the proper number of times each hour.

The Big Bell tolls, but just a bellwether

It used to be everywhere, and now it´s gone. At least for now. The big bell atop One South Broad Street (formerly the PNB bldg.) is out of commission February 4, 2013, its hourly toll silenced, while repairs are made. ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )
It used to be everywhere, and now it's gone. At least for now. The big bell atop One South Broad Street (formerly the PNB bldg.) is out of commission February 4, 2013, its hourly toll silenced, while repairs are made. ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )

If you think you heard Founder's Bell in the last few hours, you're not imagining it. Building managers at One South Broad Street have succeeded in getting the 17-ton bell to sound, but just once or a few tolls at a time. They're still working on getting it to ring the proper number of times each hour.

At noon Wednesday I think I heard its low D ring five times. "It's a work in progress," said David C. McFarland, property manager for KTR Management Services.

Tuesday's article brought out two offers of help, McFarland said. One call was from Curt Mangel III, curator of the Wanamaker Organ in the Grand Court at Macy’s. The other was from Verdin Bells and Clocks, which has a history of working with this bell.

Verdin's Doug Gefvert, sales representative for the area, says he suspects the mechanism that controls when the hammer strikes the bell has gone bad. "It's like it's having a stroke," he says of the intermittent peals. Repairmen expect to inspect the bell and its various mechanisms in the next few days, perhaps building a new controller at Verdin's Cincinnati headquarters.

"This is a huge piece of equipment," said Gefvert. "It's not the type of thing you carry around in your truck."

Peter Dobrin Inquirer Classical Music Critic
About this blog

Peter Dobrin is a classical music critic and culture writer for The Inquirer. Since 1989, he has written music reviews, features, news and commentary for the paper, covering such topics as the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Venice Biennale, expansion of the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra's bankruptcy declaration in 2011, Philadelphia's evolving performing arts center and the general health of arts and culture.

Dobrin was a French horn player. He earned an undergraduate degree in performance from the University of Miami, and received a master's degree in music criticism from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Elliott Galkin. He has no time to practice today.

Reach Peter at pdobrin@phillynews.com.

Peter Dobrin Inquirer Classical Music Critic
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