Belfry to Return to Top of Provincetown Library

Two-hundred-ton crane to lift twelve ton belfry.

From the Provincetown Library's website: 

PROVINCETOWN - Weather dependent, the Library's historic 12-ton belfry will be hoisted by a huge 200-ton crane by Truro based Winkler Construction Company on Thursday, July 26. Because this is the height of the summer season, the hoisting of the belfry will begin very early at 5:00 am. Even so, Library Director Debra DeJonker-Berry expects a huge crowd of well-wishers to be present on Commercial Street and on the nearby beaches to watch this historic event.

The 29-foot tall belfry has sat on the front of the Library property since 2002 when it was hoisted to the ground for restoration and so that structural repairs to the building could be completed. Through the generosity of local businessman Michael MacIntrye, a grant from the Hiebert Charitable Foundation, and the many individual contributions of citizens and visitors alike, the belfry has been restored by Campbell Construction Company of Beverly, MA so that it can be returned to the top of the Library building.

Today, the 29-ft tall belfry with its newly constructed 5-ft tall finial sit on the Library property awaiting their return. John Bologna of Coastal Engineering of Orleans, MA painstakingly drew the plans and specs for the belfry's reconstruction, The hoisting had been delayed from July 10th in order to ensure the proper alignment of the existing stub posts and the belfry base. The engineering solution was the construction and installation of a structural steel channel collar that will be welded to the existing steel tube cap plates in lieu of the PT timber sill plate that was originally planned. This steel collar will provide a stronger and continuous base that has the added benefit of allowing for a quicker installation when the belfry is hoisted up.

The belfry along with the 1835 Holbrook bell have a new lightning protection system that culminates in a copper ball at the top of the finial. The lightning protection system ties into the complete system on the roof of the Library that was installed as part of the renovation of the Library in 2004.

The bell was cast in 1835 by George H. Holbrook of Medway, MA. Holbrook was the son of a man who had been an apprentice in the bell foundry and clock-making business to Paul Revere. The Holbrook bell foundry was the successor of the famous Revere bell foundry and during the years 1816-1820 was the only establishment of its kind in America. Colonel Holbrook, who became an eminent musician, is credited with improving the tone of the bells, and changing them from noisy machines to musical instruments. This justly celebrated musician succeeded his father in the business, which he continued until 1872. He was regarded as the foremost bell make in America.

The Holbrook bell is a bronze bell and has a diameter of 42? and weighs well over a ton. It hangs on a yoke very similar to the Liberty Bell. The Library Trustees have been working with the staff at the Verdin Company who are one of the few companies left that offer the level of skill and craftsmanship necessary for this kind of work. The bell was recently shipped to the Verdin factory in Cincinnati, OH in order to be made structurally sound for her return to the top of the Library. In Cincinnati, the bolts which attach it to the yoke were replaced with custom hardware, and the bell was sandblasted and polished. Also, as preparation to make the bell ring in the future, custom hardware was installed inside the bell to prepare for a future striker. The Trustees hope to host the ?Ceremonial First Ringing? for the Centennial Celebration of the Laying of the Cornerstone of the Pilgrim Monument on August 20, 2007.

With the return of the belfry to the Provincetown skyline, the building now hosts two impressive elements of Provincetown history. The second is the 66-ft long half-scale model of the Grand Banks Fishing Schooner The Rose Dorothea which is nestled in the former sanctuary of the 1860 Methodist Church, now the Library's Children's Room.

With the restoration of the belfry, the Town is one step closer to the completion of the restoration of this National Register property. More than $1,000,000 still needs to be raised however including funds for the restoration of the intricate façade and historic landscaping fronting Commercial Street. For information on how to make a gift towards this remarkable project, visit the Library web-site www.ptownlib.com.

See the library's photo album here.

All above photos of the belfry, bell and construction at the library taken by capecodtoday in July of 2002.

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