St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral - Table of Contents

Bells - St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral
128 Pearl Street, Buffalo, NY

From the Archives #25
December, 2013

National Historic Landmark - Nomination

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Until someone comes along who is more agile than I, who is not afraid of heights, and won’t mind  climbing through cobwebs and 163 years of bird droppings that coat   the inside of the small tower of St. Paul’s Cathedral, this photograph  of Buffalo’s first church bell   will have to do for now. The platform, 80 feet above Church Street upon which the bell rests, is quite narrow and surrounded by heavy beams that need to be scaled in order to angle for a better picture. 
On February 25, 1821, Bishop John Henry Hobart consecrated St. Paul’s Church in Buffalo. The bell arrived that summer, and was placed in the square tower that looked over Main Street. It remained there until 1850 when the building was sold to a German-speaking Lutheran congregation and moved to another location. The bell was cast by Horatio Hanks of Auburn, New York.    Horatio Hanks belonged to an    energetic family that carried on a wide variety of industrial enterprises in New England and in New York State: chiefly, “church bells, tower clocks and surveying instruments.” Horatio’s father, Benjamin (1755-1824), is considered the father of the church bell and bronze cannon business in America.
When the news of the deaths of Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (both men died on July 4, 1826) reached Buffalo, the bell tolled steadily as the citizens of Buffalo formed a solemn procession that wound its way down Pearl Street to Terrance, then over to the front doors of St. Paul’s on Main Street. The same bell had been rung during Major Mordecai Noah’s visit to Buffalo just a year before. The Major was a New York City politician    and Jewish advocate, who had come to Buffalo to dedicate Grand Island as a sanctuary for world Jewry. In spite of the impressive dedicatory service which took place in St. Paul’s Church, Major Noah’s plans for Grand Island came to naught.
By 1903, the old bell was no longer rung on a regular basis. It has been rung on at least three occasions since the turn of the twentieth century: Good Friday, 1935; V-J Day, 1945; and in 1966 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of St. Paul’s Church in Buffalo.
Wanting a heavier bell with a deeper and more pleasing tone, the Vestry voted, in 1827, to have it recast by the Cochran and Fisher Foundry of Batavia, New York. This recast bell was hung in the small tower of the new Richard Upjohn church in 1851. Fortunately, it survived the Fire of 1888 which had completely gutted the interior of the cathedral.
At the time of the gas explosion, there were nine bells hanging in the larger Pearl Street tower. They were not damaged in the fire. These bells had been rung for the first time on Christmas Eve of 1856. A tenth bell was added the following year. In 1924 the bells were removed from the tower for recasting and repairs to the framework supporting them.   Four new bells were added at this time.   The refurbished bells were pealed by the bell squad on October 1 after a silence of close to five months. The bell ringers of old and their ropes are long gone. Today, St. Paul’s 14 bells are rung electronically.  

Special thanks to Wayne Mori for making this archive avilable for reprinting.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2014
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