BELLS, ESPECIALLY those found in churches, have been used to mark major events throughout our history. They also toll for weddings and memorials and mark the hours around the clock.
Some may find them annoying, but I happen to love the sweet sound of bells, chimes and even electronic carillons because they deliver a cozy, nostalgic feeling to a community.
Nashua’s First Church features a historic 118-foot high bell tower. The Tower Chime is played live by a devoted group of volunteer solo ringers every Sunday before the 10 a.m. service for about 15 minutes as it proudly rings out across downtown’s Library Hill. The Tower Chime will also mark Easter Sunday’s morning services.
There’s another old bell, 55 inches in diameter with majestic roots, sitting silently at the far right side of City Hall Plaza, all 2,414 pounds.
Nashua’s city bell is about 161 years old. Considering its girth, it’s remarkable that the bell has been safely moved to a variety of locations throughout the decades.
The bell first hung (1863) at the original City Hall building near 106 Main St., and during its prominent place there, the bell was used as an alarm for breaking fires. It also rang to notify the passing of well known residents and U.S. presidents, and to mark the holidays.
By 1936, the bell was removed from its tower because of safety concerns and taken to the city’s storage barn.
In 1939, Nashua debuted a new City Hall and location at 229 Main St. (current address). The bell didn’t come with it.
Instead, my childhood Greek church on Ash Street received the bell as a gift from the city. It hung in the Church of the Annunciation for some three decades, and then later the Fellowship Baptist Church moved into my former church building and began using the bell.
That wasn’t the end. The city bell was on the move again (2003) to 14 Court St., where it stood outside on display.
In 2008, the huge bell was restored and brought to its original location near 106 Main St., thanks primarily to the late philanthropist James Stellos, who gave a $40,000 donation to a project spearheaded by Renee Reder, a former city intern.
When Main Street underwent sidewalk renovations (2013), the outdoor bell could no longer be accommodated in the sidewalk’s layout design from what I recall and was moved yet again (2015) to its current City Hall Plaza spot, coming full circle.
Speaking of landmarks, I’d like to add a footnote to my March 11 column, regarding the La Dame de Notre Renaissance sculpture.
I mentioned that Georgi Hippauf was the sole fundraiser, but others also contributed to this amazing effort.
Businessman Bill Dube (former President of the Nashua Board of Realtors), tells me that he became involved when the owner of Chagnon’s Lumber visited him. Emile Chagnon Jr. was soliciting at least 20 sponsors to cover the sculpture’s cost, and Dube proudly donated $1,000, saying that Chagnon “was a true gentleman and very hard to say no to.”
Eric Drouart, president of Club Richelieu of Nashua, also worked with Hippauf on the statue project 20 years ago. He says that his club and several Franco-American organizations played key fundraising roles for the beautiful French-Canadian symbol that graces the downtown.
You can join Club Richelieu and Mayor Donchess for a Francophone Flag Raising Ceremony at City Hall Plaza on March 31 at 11 a.m.