Pa. Firefighters on Mission to Save Bell Tower

July 11--Greensburg firefighters are continuing fundraising efforts to repair the bell tower at Hose Company No. 8 on Highland Avenue.

"We're in the process of turning to foundations," said Clyde Snyder, who is helping to spearhead the effort. "We figure it's going to cost us somewhere around $70,000 to do the whole bell tower.

"We're going to look at some other fundraising, too," he added.

So far, a committee involving firefighters and city officials has raised $8,000.

"I think it's about preserving history, and I also think members of No. 8 take a lot of pride in the symbolism of that bell," said City Administrator Sue Trout, a committee member.

City council may vote in the near future on contributing funds from the fire department capital equipment fund to help provide matching funds for the project, Trout said.

Engineers suggested adding steel beams to support the bell, Snyder said.

The planned work will include adding a new cupola and restoring the bell.

Until construction starts, the tower will be sealed.

"It leaks, but it's structurally sound," Snyder added.

"There are very few bell towers left in fire stations in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania," he said.

Snyder hopes the work can start next year.

The limited number of towers makes preserving No. 8's more necessary, Snyder said.

The bell came from Ludlow, Vt., and was forged in 1907.

If the tower isn't restored, Snyder said last year, the company will probably need to tear it down and put a roof on the Colonial-revival building that has served the community since the 1930s.

Many firefighters and residents would hate to see a roof added, Snyder said.

Prior to the advent of two-way radios, the station's gong and bell were the only way to notify volunteer firefighters of an alarm, fire officials said.

During the 1940s, young members of the company slept in the bell tower because the station lacked sleeping facilities.

None of the other Greensburg companies has a bell tower, though several put the bells that were in them out in front of their stations, Snyder said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

Copyright 2014 - Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.

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