On Thursday, May 6, Oglethorpe seniors prepping for graduation got the opportunity to finally see what all the fuss is about and climb the Lupton bell tower and ring the Carillon bells.
Why such a big deal, you ask? The bell tower stairwell is off-limits to just anyone. There are just a few keys tucked away in various places on campus that open the secret doorway to the Lupton bell tower. The only people authorized to climb the bell tower are graduating seniors (a couple days before they depart campus and set out into the real world!) and alumni who celebrate reunion years during Alumni Weekend.
Here’s a brief (and interesting!) history of the bells here at Oglethorpe University… The construction of Lupton Hall in 1919 included a clock tower and chimes for both aesthetic and practical applications. The four bells were a gift from Mrs. Fredrick Lesh of Newton Center, Massachusetts, who was the sister of Mrs. Thornwell Jacobs. The largest of the original four bells (weighing 2,000 lbs.) bears the inscription, “Given by Grace Josephine Lesh, that the hours at Oglethorpe might be filled with music and harmony.” The chimes helped to guide the daily schedules of the people of OU and were designed to strike mechanically Westminster quarter-hour chimes and hour toll.
Further donations brought the total number of bells to 10 as of 1929. These ten bells were equipped with electrical striking and a one octave console was installed allowing the playing of limited musical scores. In 1972, due to the deterioration of the oak timber frame supporting the bells, the frame and bells were removed as part of a renovation plan for Lupton Hall. The 10 bells were sent to Cincinnati, Ohio, for sounding. Later that year, 25 new bells and a new steel tower were installed. Seven additional bells were ordered to be installed the following spring to bring the total bell count to 42. The OU 42-bell carillon was the first cast bronze bell carillon in Georgia. The carillon was first equipped with a double-banked console, allowing unlimited musical scores to be played, as well as an automatic player with chime quarter-hour Westminster, hour strike and toll, and a coded tape deck that will play pre-selected music on the bells. The carillon has played for a variety of Oglethorpe University and community events including the Senior Capping ceremony, Boar’s Head, Oglethorpe Day, Commencement, recitals, weddings, funerals and national events.