Bell Tower Not Likely To Attend Commencement ’05

For the first time in 81 years, the Memorial Bell Tower might be noticeably absent from the Commencement exercises of the Class of 2005. The Trustees and administration will vote on plans to renovate the Academy landmark during their annual fall meetings. They will decide to begin either in the spring of 2005 or the spring of 2006. This means that Commencement Exercises for either the Class of 2005 or the Class of 2006 will take place without the Bell Tower. “[Either] this year’s or the following year’s Commencement cycle will be affected,” said Director of Facilities Michael Williams. “There’s just no way to avoid it. We can’t start on June 6th and finish by the winter,” he continued. Although Mr. Williams understood that either the Class of 2005 or the Class of 2006 would be disappointed to depart Andover without the towering presence of one of it’s defining symbols, he said “compared to the demolition of Evans, the renovation of the tower will be a much more interesting thing to see.” “It’s going to be a pretty remarkable job,” continued Mr. Williams. “The sight of massive cranes taking down the tower piece by piece and laying it on the ground is just something that I think students will enjoy watching.” The restoration, which is necessary due to structural problems with the tower, will cost a little over $5 million. Although the tower will still contain its original set of bells from England, a second set of Dutch bells installed in the 1960’s will be replaced with an all new set complete with an extra octave. The new bells, which are being ordered from a firm in the Netherlands, will be cast to tonally match the English base bells currently in the tower. The addition of an extra octave in the treble will bring the total number of bells from 37 to 49. Besides the addition of extra bells, the clock on the Bell Tower will be repaired so that it chimes every hour. Currently, the only funds allocated for the restoration of the Bell Tower is the $2.5 million nucleus fund comprised of recent gifts made by alumni Otis Chandler ’46, Fred Jordan ’43, friend of Andover Helen Donegan, and former President of the Board of Trustees David Underwood ’54. Although the school has raised only half of what is needed, Interim Secretary of the Academy Michael Ebner ’70 said that “fundraising is not yet complete” and that the administration “expect[s] to have the project fully funded and ready to go in the spring.” Due to Massachusetts laws regulating forms of egress from a public area, the upper levels of the renovated tower will not be open for public access. “The only people that will be able to go to the top of tower will be the people who maintain the bells,” said Mr. Williams. This prohibits the use of a traditional carillon keyboard, which would be located high in the tower close to the bells. Instead, an electronic keyboard will be installed at the bottom of the tower, allowing public access to the bells. In order for a manual keyboard to be installed, an elevator and two staircases would have to be added to the tower. This would come at a cost in excess of $1 million. “[This is] a cost which the school felt was not appropriate at this time,” said Mr. Williams. “However, structural provisions have been made so that in the future, the Academy will have the option of adding a mechanical keyboard and restoring the tower’s carillon status,” said Mr. Williams. Either this coming spring or the spring of 2006, the tower will be taken down piece by piece beginning with the top. “This is definitely going to be something special to see,” said Mr. Williams.