Museum to host housewarming for historic bell

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 28, 2016

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BIRMINGHAM — It took some time, but the new home of the historic Hill School bell has been funded, designed and built.

And this Saturday, the structure will be celebrated at a dedication with some help from the Birmingham Museum, city officials and plenty of supporters.

“I like to say many hands make light work,” said Leslie Pielack, director of the Birmingham Museum. “I feel especially proud of how many different stakeholders were involved in this project, from the concept to providing input in design all the way to the final outcome. It was a community project, and I emphasize community.”

The bell, which dates back to 1869, was a familiar sight and sound to Birmingham residents for generations. After the school was closed and torn down in the late ’60s, the bill changed locations several times before landing at the museum in 2007.

It took a couple of years, but the museum was able to raise the $65,000 needed to permanently house the bell in a protective outdoor structure to be viewed by all. The bell will be presented to the public after a dedication from several city figures 1-1:30 p.m. Oct. 1.

Among those slated to speak at the dedication is lifelong resident Randy Forester, who said the Hill School bell goes back a long way in his family history.

“Both my parents were born in Birmingham in the ’20s and were lifelong residents of Birmingham,” Forester said to the Eagle in May of 2015 as the fundraising campaign for the structure was just starting to gain momentum. “Back then, because my father lived so close to Hill School at the time, someone asked him if he would ring the bell each day — in the morning to get the kids to school, and at the end of the day when it’s time to go home.”

The Birmingham Museum board, the Friends of the Museum, the Birmingham Public Schools Board of Education and the Rosso Family Foundation provided major grant funding for the bell’s new home. But smaller donation were important too, and they are recognized with commemorative pavers installed around the bell.

While Forester will be the first to ring the bell at the ceremony, Pielack said others will be invited to do the same after the ceremony for a small donation to the museum. After remarks, guests can enjoy seasonal refreshments and free admission to the Birmingham Museum.

Mayor Rackeline Hoff said she’s looking forward to speaking at the dedication, calling the effort a very worthwhile project.

“Many thanks to the widespread community support that made it possible to preserve this significant piece of Birmingham history,” Hoff said, adding that she hopes for a good turnout.

The Hill School bell dedication ceremony will take place at the new structure, located between the Allen and Hunter houses, at 556 W. Maple Road in downtown Birmingham.

For more information, call the Birmingham Museum at (248) 530-1928.

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