THE RESTORED fire bell is back where it belongs on the Town Common. (Dan Tomasello Photo)
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The historic fire bell has been restored and is back on the Town Common.
Calvary Christian Church helped fund the $7,900 bell restoration project by donating $5,700 to the town in early May.
“After the Common was renovated, the town identified the bell and a few other items as possible future improvements to the Common,” said Town Engineer Charlie Richter. “Calvary Christian Church reached out to Select Board Chairman Dick Dalton at the beginning of the new year about a possible donation to the town for a project, and Dick suggested that they donate to renovating the bell. With the CCC’s help, we were able to make it a reality. The DPW coordinated the work for the project.”
The DPW transported the bell to Skylight Studios in Woburn in order to refinish it.
“The bell was made out of cast steel, but it had never really been restored in the past,” said Skylight Studios Owner/President Robert Shure. “It had started to corrode, which was not a good situation because it could start to snowball and could turn into a pile of rust very quickly.”
Shure said the refinishing process was comprehensive and took between six and eight weeks to complete.
“The bell is structurally in good condition, so we basically had to refinish it,” said Shure. “It had to be cleaned back down to bare metal, which is done with abrasive blasting. We then put a special coating on it in order to protect the surface. We then put another coat of paint over it. And if there were any defects, we fixed them during the process.”
Shure thoroughly enjoyed restoring the historic fire bell.
“It’s very cool,” said Shure. “I have worked on a lot of bells, but most of them have been brass or bronze. I have worked on steel before, but I have never worked on a steel bell. I love the history of objects, and it was pretty exciting to restore it.”
Shure commended the DPW for carefully removing the bell, transporting it to Skylight Studios and bringing it back to its granite base on the Town Common safely.
“There were challenges with protecting it, rigging it and protecting the entire landscape of the Town Common,” said Shure. “The DPW was great to work with. They are quality people.”
Select Board Chairman Dick Dalton is thrilled with how the refinished bell looks.
“I am very pleased with the restoration work done by the firm that we chose,” said Dalton. “It was done very, very well, and it will ensure that the bell will be in good shape for many years to come. It’s an obligation for all of us, especially us elected officials, to preserve the town’s historic buildings and artifacts.”
Calvary Christian Church Executive Pastor Jamie Booth agreed.
“Calvary has been a proud member of the Lynnfield community for over 60 years, and we are honored to support the efforts of our local government officials in the rehab project of our historical town bell,” said Booth. “We believe we are stronger together, and we look forward to future partnership opportunities within our Lynnfield community.”
The bell, which was built by Naylor Vickers & Co., dates back to 1859. The bell was originally installed on the Meeting House, where it was used as the town’s fire alarm bell for many years when the Meeting House previously served as Chemical House No. 1.
Historical Commission Chairman Kirk Mansfield stated in an email sent to the Villager that the story behind how the bell got placed on the Common is “fascinating.”
“When the old Town Hall was being torn down, the three garages behind it had to be removed as well to make room for the new building,” Mansfield stated. “In one of those garages was the bell, scheduled to be put in a dump truck with so much other debris. Park and Cemetery Chairman Donald Harriss made a motion to have the bell restored and placed somewhere on the Common. However, before doing so, they needed a secure base for it. Park Commissioner Pete Pearson told Donald that the old foundation of the Town Hall was made of granite mined from the quarry in South Lynnfield. Donald was able to obtain three pieces of the granite. Two were used as a base for the bell and one was placed at the Main Street entrance of the Meeting House. The bell became an attraction for children to ring whenever they could, which became an irritation to the neighbors. Eventually, Arthur Holbrook, an artist who lived on Arlington Street, was commissioned to design and mount a clamp that would prevent it from ringing. Several years later when the bell was being restored, the clamp was removed and children were free to ring it again.”
The fire bell’s restoration is the latest Town Common improvement project that has been undertaken over the last few years. The projects that have been completed include installing new brick walkways, lampposts, handicap ramps, electrical outlets, an irrigation system and a new septic system for the Meeting House and Lynnfield Public Library. The DPW also hired a contractor in order to plant new sod on the Common.
“I have heard a lot of great comments about how great the Town Common looks,” said Dalton. “The benches, the grass and the walkways look beautiful.”
Richter concurred with Dalton’s viewpoint.
“I think the renovated bell is the cherry on top of the renovation project,” said Richter.
House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) and State Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) were able to secure a $50,000 earmark in the fiscal year 2022 state budget that will be used to make additional improvements to the Town Common.
“I want to give kudos to Brad Jones and Brendan Crighton for always doing whatever they can to help the town of Lynnfield,” said Dalton. “With their help, we have another $50,000 available to improve the Common even further.”