Clock tower chimes ring again on UB's South Campus

Two giant metal bells.

Two of the four bells in the Hayes Hall clock tower. Credit: Douglas Levere

'I am the voice of life; I call you: Come and learn,' reads the inscription on one of four bells in the Hayes Hall clock tower

Release Date: October 19, 2015 This content is archived.

A large bell.
Four bells in the Hayes Hall clock tower.

The two images above show the Hayes Hall clock tower bells, which were donated to UB in 1928. Credit: Douglas Levere

Clock movement.
Clock movement.

The two images above depict the "movement," the mechanical gears and parts that form the heart of the Hayes Hall clock. Levers attached to the clock movement tug on cables that are joined, at the other end, to hammers that ring the bells. In the top photo, a worker cleans the clock on Oct. 13. Credit: Douglas Levere

BUFFALO, N.Y. — After a hiatus of several years, the beautiful, stately ring of Westminster chimes has returned to the University at Buffalo’s South Campus.

The chimes — which sound every 15 minutes — were shut down in 2011 as the university began an extensive renovation of Edmund B. Hayes Hall, the iconic 1800s building that houses the South Campus clock tower.

With construction on Hayes nearing its completion, the chimes were restarted on Thursday, Oct. 15.

“I’m glad they’re coming back. I’ve missed them,” said Linda Young, a 22-year resident of University Heights and retired teacher who has a view of Hayes Hall from her porch. “I do a lot of gardening, so I’m out in the garden in the summertime, and it’s pleasant to hear the bells.”

Of the chiming, she added, “It’s loud enough to hear, but not loud enough to disturb, because it’s a pleasant sound. They’re very regular. You can depend on them. It’s reassuring. It’s part of the neighborhood.”

The sounding of the chimes marks an important milestone in the development of UB’s South Campus under UB 2020, the university’s strategic plan.

This classic collegiate campus off Main Street in Buffalo will continue to serve as an important center of education and research after the medical school moves downtown in 2017. The $42 million restoration of Hayes Hall, home to the UB School of Architecture and Planning, is a key component of this vision.

“Hayes Hall is truly a beacon for our university and our surrounding communities,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi. “And just as the famous clock tower is in many ways the symbolic face of our university, its chimes have been UB’s voice for decades. Hearing those chimes ringing once again is a very welcome signal of the exciting progress moving forward with renovations to this historic UB icon.”

Other South Campus facilities that have undergone extensive renovations in recent years include John and Editha Kapoor Hall, home to the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Wende Hall, home to the School of Nursing; Stockton Kimball Tower, home to the School of Public Health and Health Professions; and the third and fourth floors of Farber Hall, home to medical research labs.

Future plans call for the School of Social Work and Graduate School of Education to relocate to the South Campus, facilitating further engagement between these two schools and the Buffalo community.

“UB is re-energizing its South Campus to enhance learning and research, and create a more magnetic public space,” says Laura Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration. “In addition to new and restored facilities, our plan reinforces historic quadrangles, restores the landscape and strengthens neighborhood connections through pedestrian pathways and transit-oriented development.”

“I’m glad to see all the work that has been put into the restoration of the South Campus. It’s a very good thing, and it looks great,” said Yvonne James-Brown, a freelance teaching artist in dance who lives in the neighborhood. Brown studied at UB in the 1970s and ’80s, and has fond memories of the chimes.

About the renovation of Hayes Hall

Clock dial interior.
Clock dial close-up.

Inside the Hayes Hall clock tower. Credit: Douglas Levere

The renovation of Hayes Hall is transforming the building into a state-of-the-art facility for learning and research in architecture and planning. Classrooms and studios will be outfitted with the latest technologies; an open, airy two-story atrium will feature a full-wall digital projection system; and many of the building's utility systems, such as fire suppression and air circulation systems, will be exposed so students can see and understand how such systems work.

Yet the renovation will also preserve the circa 1874 building’s history. Historic details that will be retained include Hayes’ limestone exterior (which has been repointed), sections of terrazzo floor and, of course, the white clock tower and its Westminster chime.

Improvements to the clock tower range from new paint for the exterior to the installation of a ship’s ladder that has made the area much more accessible.

Last week, workers from Lockport-based Essence of Time were in Hayes Hall to clean the clock, brushing dust off its mechanical parts, before restarting it to keep time and chime. The company previously conducted a restoration of the clock movement — the mechanism that drives the clock — that included a historically correct repainting of the movement and the repair of many parts.

"For more than 80 years, UB's historic Hayes Hall, its clock tower and Westminster chimes have served as fixtures for our campus and community,” said Robert G. Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. “The restarting of the chimes is a fitting harbinger of what will soon be the complete restoration and renewal of an iconic UB landmark and the creation of a state-of-the-art facility for the School of Architecture and Planning."

About the Hayes Hall chimes

The chimes’ return marks the revival of a tradition that began 87 years ago. According to the University Archives, the four-bell Westminster chime in the Hayes Hall clock tower was a gift from Kate Robinson Butler, a longtime University Council member and the wife of Edward H. Butler, president of the Buffalo Evening News. Kate Robinson Butler became president and publisher of the News after her husband's death, and also served as president of WBEN Inc.

The chime consists of a 400-pound bell tuned to exact D; a 550-pound bell tuned to exact C; a 750-pound bell tuned to exact B-flat; and an 1,800-pound bell tuned to exact F.

The largest bell carries an inscription written by Cuthbert W. Pound, former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals: "All truth is one. In this light may science and religion labor here together for the steady evolution of mankind from darkness to light; from prejudice to tolerance; from narrowness to broadmindedness."

The smallest bell bears these words, also written by Pound: “I am the voice of life; I call you: Come and learn."

The Hayes Hall chime was originally set in operation on the evening of July 19, 1928, according to the archives.

The chimes have not been in continuous operation since then, but when they were ringing, their sound accompanied students, faculty and neighbors on occasions both routine and special. In a moving tribute, Kenneth Cott from University Maintenance rang them by hand during the funeral procession of UB’s ninth chancellor, Clifford C. Furnas, a former assistant secretary of defense and Olympic runner who died in 1969. Cott’s tribute was described in the spring/summer 2003 edition of UB’s alumni magazine, then called “UB Today.”

The bells in the clock tower today are the originals from 1928, but the mechanism that operates them has changed. Once wound by hand, the clock is now wound electronically; each quarter hour, hammers connected to the clock via cables ring the bells, with the longest melody playing when the clock strikes the hour.

Editor’s note

In 2019, the SUNY Board of Trustees revoked the naming of John and Editha Kapoor Hall as well as John Kapoor's honorary degree. More information is available in the university’s News Center.

Media Contact Information

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