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1902 Hill School Bell

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Dedication of the Bell Structure Starts New Era for Hill School Bell

Hill School On October 1, 2016, the Hill School bell was ceremonially rung in to the Letter about Hill School Bell next phase of its story by Randy Forester, son of George Forester, childhood bell ringer at the Hill School early in the twentieth century. Click here to download an mp3 of the bell ringing. The Foresters are a native Birmingham family with a special connection to the bell's history. Read more about George Forester and the bell here. 

At a dedication event in 2016,  Mayor Rackeline Hoff summarized it well:  
"Often times, we hear about what’s new in Birmingham – buildings, streets, new technology.  But, today we’re here to recognize something from the past … an important part of Birmingham’s history, the Hill School Bell.  The placement of the Bell here between the historic Hunter and Allen House is most appropriate – it’s a significant addition in support of the valuable historic preservation of Birmingham."

Mayor Hoff extended the thanks of the city commission to a wide range of supporters.  "This project is the result of more than five years of planning and is a wonderful example of what can be done through the combination of City input, citizen involvement and private investment in a community project."  In particular, she thanked: 

  • Birmingham Public Schools for donating the Hill School Bell
  • Volunteers including Friends of the Museum, the Museum Board and all the other committee members who provided input on this project
  • Staff members of the Museum and City administration who spent many hours coordinating this project
  • Hundreds of individual citizens who made contributions or purchased commemorative brick pavers to raise needed funds

Dedication-Randy Forester Mayor Hoff also pointed out the supportive efforts of  the Rosso Family Foundation, which provided both project input and significant funding of $42,500 for this project.  The Foundation has helped fund other community projects and has provided additional financial grant support for other museum initiatives, such as the historic landscape survey and master planning for the museum's site.  Watch the video of the bell dedication produced by the Birmingham Area Cable Board. (Dedication photos by Carroll DeWeese)

"Let the Hill School Bell Ring Out Again!"  Initiative 
The bell rested for a time at the museum.  But interest in its final resting place continued, and in 2011, meetings were held with the Museum Board, Friends of the Birmingham Museum, members of the public and the school board to discuss an outdoor installment that would allow the public to enjoy the bell, while protecting it from the elements and providing lighting and security.  A generous grant from the Rosso Family Foundation allowed the museum to engage an architect to create the final plans, which were complete in 2013. The final design is a gazebo-like structure that was inspired by the original cupola from the Hill School roof.  It will be installed in the plaza area between the Allen House and Hunter Houses at the museum, so that passers-by can see and appreciate this historic piece of Birmingham’s past.  It will also commemorate our local school heritage and recognize superintendents and others who have contributed to its preservation.  And the bell will be specially installed so that museum visitors will be able to ring it.  

Hill School Bell Outdoor Structure 2017 - CopyThe project was estimated at $40,000 to prepare the site and build the structure.  The materials are historic in character but long-lasting and low maintenance.  A further grant for $20,000 was received from the Rosso Family Foundation as matching funds to help the Friends of the Birmingham Museum and Museum Board's final fundraising campaign, which was only about $5,000 short by the end of 2015.  The Rosso Family Foundation stepped up to the plate to provide the final funding to take the project out to bid.  When project construction estimates came in, costs had increased.  The final project cost was $55,000, and was completed in September, 2016.

The Hill School bell project has brought together the best of Birmingham. So many people in the community have fond memories and great stories about the Hill School, and wholeheartedly lent their support to the project.  Support included funds donated and raised with the Friends of the Birmingham Museum's commemorative paver program, grant funding from the Rosso Family Foundation, and funds contributed by the Board of Education.  But support takes many forms, and included public input contributed to the project, the many hours of volunteer assistance throughout the five years of fundraising and event planning, and professional expertise that was given to guide the project.