Historic BND bell to ring in Old Belleville Street Fair

News-DemocratJune 5, 2014 

The News-Democrat marked its 150th year in 2008.


The old bell atop the Belleville News-Democrat will ring out for four minutes Saturday for the Old Belleville Street Fair.

Organizers of the fair are hoping the pealing of the historic bell will be heard at 9:58 a.m. to kick off the event, which is centered on East Garfield Street and the Historical District.

The bell was cast in 1865 and hung at the old Washington School building until the building was replaced by the new school on South Charles Street in the early 1930s.

It was hung again when the Kern family renovated the News-Democrat building in 1962. They added a bell cupola to the building and put the bell in there.

News-Democrat photographer emeritus Bill Demestri remembered the advent of the bell at the newspaper.

"That was the Kerns' doing," he said. "The thing was that when they put it in they said it would ring on special occasions."

Of course, he doesn't remember any of those occasions.

Neither do many other people. Apparently the bell hasn't rung much in its 54 years atop the News-Democrat.

Several people suggested occasions when they thought it might have rung but other people disagreed with some of those.

News-Democrat Publisher Jay Tebbe, a long-time employee, said he was pretty sure it rang for the funeral procession of longtime newspaper production manager Bob Sax, and also for the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution for the Daughters of the American Revolution.

He said it also rang on Jan 1, 2000, for the new millennium but not many other times.

"To my knowledge they didn't ring it a lot," he said.

Lest you have visions of someone having to climb way up a tower and pull a heavy rope to ring the bell, it has an electronic system. The switch is on a wall across from the publisher's office.

The bell is not even accessible through the third floor of the building. We looked.

The newspaper has spent money through the years keeping the system working. Apparently there was talk of deactivating the bell but it never happened.

The bell has been tested and declared ready for Saturday's ringing.

So listen closely. Heaven knows when you'll hear it again.

"I'm just happy that they wanted us to participate," Tebbe said.

Have a column idea? Call Wally at 239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: wspiers@bnd.com

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