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Posts tagged: Bell Tower

Sep 08 2011

Bells & Whistles

Contributed by Samantha Rich

Ship's Bell, U.S.S. North Carolina, 1947

Before the age of electrically powered alarm clocks, battery operated watches, and all-knowing smartphones, NC State students awoke to the sounds of bells and whistles. In October 1935, the North Carolina Hall of History (now known as the NC Museum of History) and the Council of State voted to donate an 800 pound bell from the U.S.S. North Carolina to NC State College. College administrators originally thought the bell would replace the old whistle at the College Power Plant, however many students and alumni expressed displeasure with the proposal stating that the bell would make the college seem more like a “grammar school.” The familiar whistle awoke students for class, sounded to signal class changes and meals, and warned students of campus fires. One alumnus opposed the new bell stating, “The College whistle has something he-mannish about it…” Because of campus disapproval and damage caused to the bell through frequent use, administrators placed the bell in storage.

The campus whistle, nicknamed “Old Faithful,” was a “Lunkenheimer size three, bronze balance, three tone whistle valve.” Originally installed in 1925 by Professor Parks in the Ceramic Building, also known as the “old Power Plant,” the whistle was later moved to the new Power Plant as State College’s campus grew. In 1946 the Technician recalled Old Faithful’s sound on Victory in Europe Day (May 8, 1945), Victory in Japan Day (September 2, 1945), and the day the dairy barn caught fire.

College administrators provided for the replacement of Old Faithful in May 1946 with the addition of a new campus bell. Raleigh City Commissioners elected to give the old fire bell from the No. 1 Firehouse in Raleigh to State College after the fire alarm system was converted to electricity. Students welcomed the 1,700 pound bell, cast in Baltimore in 1870, ironically declaring Old Faithful’s call inconsistent and too loud. The new bell rang for several years until it fell out of use at an unknown date.

In 2008 NCSU graduate student Matthew Robbins rediscovered the old bells in campus storage. Read about his historic treasure hunt in the Technician online or request archived copies for use in the Special Collections Reading Room.

To learn more about the history of student life at NC State, please visit the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center.

Sources: Technician (4 October 1935, 18 October 1935, 1 November 1935, 28 May 1946) Alumni News (October 1935)