Bell Tower Faces Reconstruction

Every Andover student knows the welcoming sight of The Fuller Memorial Tower, the first campus landmark that comes into view when driving toward campus on highway 28. Known affectionately as “the Bell Tower,” the campus symbol has stood for 81 years as a memorial to the 87 Phillips A c a d e m y g r a d u a t e s who died in World War I. It will soon u n d e r g o e x t e n s i v e restoration. According to Director of the Office of the Physical Plant Michael Williams, the bell tower is a “ t r a n s i t i o n structure,” a structure that uses a mixture of antiquated 19th c e n t u r y masonry and 20th century steel support. These two mediums do not work well together; unlike the steel skeleton, the masonry is inflexible. As a result of the incompatibility of the two structural systems, cracks have formed in the walls of the bell tower. The cracks have expanded with time, allowing moisture to reach the steel skeleton. The moisture has caused many of the steel beams to rust, which may ultimately lead to a loss of structural integrity. To delay this process, OPP has been caulking the cracks since it discovered them about 10 years ago. Due to the nature of the structural problems plaguing the tower, the restoration effort will involve an extensive rebuilding of the façade. All of the stone and brick that comprises the tower’s façade will be stripped to expose the steel skeleton of the structure. Some of the steel will then be replaced and the stone and brick will be reapplied using contemporary structural materials and designs that will prevent the problems that currently plague the building. The contemporary structural systems will resemble those used in the new Gelb Science Center. The wooden part of the tower that sits on top of the brick will be removed and set on the ground with a crane. It will then be restored and repainted before being replaced on top of the newly laid brick portion of the tower. Mr. Williams said that the tower will retain a vast majority of its visible features, the only difference being small “expansion joints” that will run vertically up the tower. Similar expansion joints currently exist on the walls of Gelb. The restoration of the carillon bells, which have not been heard since 1995, is also on the agenda. The 37 bell carillon, which resides in the wooden top of the tower, will be completely reinstalled after being cleaned and tuned. New exterior ‘clappers’ (iron fixtures that strike the bells) and an electronic keyboard system will be installed so that the bells can be played from a room at the bottom of the tower. The new system will electronically ring the bells from a keyboard. The current manual keyboard is located at the top of the tower and is directly connected to the bells. The new instrument will lose its carillon status because of the electronic keyboard and action. Currently, the carillon in the Memorial Tower is one of nine in the state of Massachusetts and one of less than 200 on the continent. However, after the restoration, according to Academy Carillonneur Sally Slade Warner, its classification as a carillon will change. In a letter addressed to the trustees in January of this year, Ms. Warner wrote that if the proposed modifications are made to the carillon, it will “loose its integrity as a musical instrument, falling [from the status of carillon] to the status of ‘cast bell system.’” The difference between the proposed new instrument and a real carillon is primarily in the ability to express dynamics. According to the Articles of Incorporation of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America, a true carillon is “played from a keyboard permitting control of expression through variation of touch.” According to Ms. Warner, this type of control can only be wielded on an instrument with a manual action. “The new system will play lots of notes, but no music,” said Ms. Warner, who is disappointed that the instrument cannot be restored properly. The actual cost of restoring the carillon is not what keeps it from being restored properly. Under federal and state building codes, any area to which the public (which includes students and musicians) has access must have two separate sets of fire stairs and an elevator for handicapped access. The installation of these items would increase the cost of the restoration of the building by about $1.5 million above the $5 million that the administration and the trustees have budgeted. The restoration, which is slated to begin in the Spring of 2005, has been in the works for a long time. Engineers at the Office of the Physical Plant have known that the structure would require extensive rebuilding for about 10 years. In their annual winter meeting two weeks ago, the trustees allocated $2.5 million toward the rebuilding effort, which is projected to cost about $5 million. The money was given by Otis Chandler ’46, Frederick Jordan ’43, and President of the Board of Trustees David Underwood ’54. If fundraising goes as the trustees and the administration expect, the rebuilding should begin during the spring of 2005 and end by January of the following year. Originally, the funds to build the tower were given by S a m u e l Fuller, class of 1894, and eight of his d e s c e n – dants. The cornerstone of the building was laid during the commencement exercises on June 16, 1922. The tower was dedicated in June of 1923. T h e t o w e r , which was designed by Guy Lowell, the architect of many other campus buildings, is 159 feet tall including the weather vein. It has a carillon of 37 bells, 30 of which were installed when the building was built. The other seven were added in 1926. During the 1922 commencement exercises, the graduating senior class placed a time capsule under the cornerstone. The capsule, contained in a copper box, held symbols important to the students: newspapers, books, magazines, photographs, a baseball, a pack of cigarettes, and coins. When the tower was built, the bells struck the Westminster chime every quarter hour. The chime has not been struck in more than forty years.