WATERVLIET, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Watervliet took steps to preserve a piece of the city’s history on Wednesday. A bell that sat in a tower at the former St. Brigid’s Church was carefully removed by crews and plans to display the bell are underway.
Mayor Charles Patricelli said preserving the bell is about showcasing Watervliet’s history. The Meneely Bell Foundry made over 65,000 bells and shipped them internationally.
“I mean they were well-known, they were one of the best creators of bells in the world actually,” said Patricelli.
Founder Andrew Meneely established the foundry in 1826 and it operated until 1951.
“This is what Watervliet was actually built on, the backs of blue-collar workers. And the foundry made Watervliet such a great place, it was the start of the Industrial Revolution. They were a good part of it,” said Patricelli.
On Wednesday, a crane removed a Meneely bell from the tower at the former St. Brigid’s Church. Patricelli said it’s important to display them in an area with high foot traffic, that way people understand where they came from.
Tom Ragosta is the president of the Watervliet Historical Society and said a special formula was used when making the bronze bells – 78 percent copper and 22 percent tin.
“And that’s why they resonate the way they do. Most bells actually are cast iron and they just don’t have the tone or resonate for any period of time like the brass bells do,” said Ragosta.
He said that formula was important and made them more effective than cast iron bells when alerting the community to things, like deaths.
“As you know, bells were the means of communication before electricity, they called people to church, they called them to meetings, they were used as fire alarms,” said Ragosta.
The Watervliet Charitable Foundation led the efforts to preserve the bell and is currently searching for the best location to display the bell. Those plans have yet to be finalized.
Ragosta has been a part of those conversations and wants to see a Meneely bell display that is dedicated to Eugene Burns. Burns spent 50 years researching the Meneely bells and published a book, “The Meneely Bells of West Troy, New York”, just before he passed away in January.
Ragosta called the bell a “piece of history” and says they’re trying to document what a vibrant city Watervliet was and all the businesses that started there.
Another, much smaller, Meneely bell is expected to be removed next week for preservation as well.