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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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The Fire Bell

The Fire Bell

GRHC - November 17th, 2010

The history of the landmark fire bell that called Grand Rapids' first volunteer fire department.    



The fire bell, which called the city’s volunteer firefighters for its first ten years, was cast in 1878 by the Meneely Bell Foundry of West Troy, New York. It hung in a wooden tower at the SE corner of Pearl and Ottawa behind the former home of William Haldane, father of the Grand Rapids furniture industry.

In 1888 it was moved to the clock tower of the newly built city hall at Ottawa and Lyon where, for 81 years it rang on the hour, struck by a hammer on the outside of the bell. This may be responsible for the chipped area on its back. In 1969, when city hall was demolished, in the name of urban renewal, the clock and the bell were saved. Local Firefighters Union 366 purchased the bell for $1500.

Next, it was installed at the Monroe entrance of the current city hall, but few knew of the bell’s original purpose; some thought it was a replica of the liberty bell. The plaque beside it told the story, “In honor of Grand Rapids firefighters past, present and future, this bell is presented by Firefighters Local 366. Let it stand forever as a memorial to all who serve with dedication.” At least 19 firefighters have died in the history of the fire department.

The bell was moved in 1995 to its current location, at the entrance of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, where on Sunday, May 7th  of that year a rededication ceremony welcomed the old fire bell to its new home.

Full Details

TitleThe Fire Bell
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, radio, WYCE, fire, bell, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringNovember 17th, 2010

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