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School of Architecture and Planning
When will the bells toll again?
Download Westminster Chimes Audio (430kb)
 
When will the bells toll again?

  Hayes Hall
For more than half a century, the sounds of the Hayes Hall bells reverberated throughout the South Campus. Many a student used the bells to get to class on time, or simply to enjoy a moment of serenity amid the hustle and bustle of campus life. Neighbors, too, became accustomed to hearing sounds that were "lost in the air, but very special," in the words of a longtime University Heights resident.

Though the Hayes Hall bells have been silent for many years, hearing their chimes becomes more likely with this summer’s planned restoration of the Hayes Hall bell tower. What’s more, the clock itself is now running, thanks to the efforts of the School of Architecture and Planning’s Richard Yencer, who must manually rewind it once a week.

"Sometime in May we expect to see the contractor mobilizing and beginning to construct scaffolding on the exterior of the [bell] tower," says Kevin Thompson, director of Facilities Planning and Design. "The masonry needs to be updated and some tuck pointing done on mortar joints. We’re replacing windows and also want to remove rust from the structural steel members and paint and renew them.

"At that point, once we are comfortable that we have the tower weather-tight and free from birds, then it would be appropriate to think about doing something with the clock mechanism and the bell-ringing system."

These are Westminster Chimes and follow the English practice of "quarter chimes," in which the length of the chime is increased as the hour proceeds. Strolling through the South Campus, one always knew what time it was. This is because the sound of the chime is different at each quarter-hour. The listener counts the bells on the hour to know if it is one o’clock, two o’clock, and so on.

The Hayes Hall clock mechanism was lovingly restored in the late 1980s by local clock tower expert Marvin DeBoy. However, the relative inaccessibility of the tower and clock mechanism has made maintenance difficult over the years, and the clockpiece is once again in dire need of repair. Another issue is the open belfry design. This planned renovation of the tower, however, is extensive, with scaffolding allowing workmen access to all levels of the tower.

The scale and intricacy of the clock tower are difficult for the layperson to grasp. Manufactured by E. Howard of Boston, Massachusetts, about 100 years ago, the Hayes Hall clock tower "is a type of machinery that hardly ever wears, assuming there is appropriate protection from the elements," says DeBoy. "The weights are very heavy and are rewound electrically."

Anyone with an interest in funding the repair should contact Michael D. Fellows, assistant vice president for gift planning at (716) 645-3312, ext. 241 or fellows@buffalo.edu.


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