A 19th century bell at the Lutheran Church in Georgetown rang for the first time in decades


Rev. Brett Wilson (right) rededicates the newly restored bell at Georgetown Lutheran Church, with National Bell Festival director Paul Ashe (left).

Members of the congregation inspect the newly restored bell at Georgetown Lutheran Church.

Members of the congregation inspect the newly restored bell at Georgetown Lutheran Church.

The historic bell was recently restored through the efforts of the National Bell Festival.

We are honored to have been the momentary steward of the bell during the church’s half-centenary celebrations and are thrilled that it is finally back and ringing again!

— Paul Ashe, Director, National Bell Festival

WASHINGTON, DC, USA, Feb. 25, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — Following a months-long restoration effort funded by the National Bell Festival, the 19th-century bell of the Georgetown Lutheran Church has sounded for the first time in decades. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the bell’s return and rededication celebrations, this historic bell was finally recognized last weekend at Georgetown Lutheran Church. This marks the 250th anniversary of the founding of Georgetown Lutheran Church (1769-2019) and the first historic bell restoration completed by the relatively new charity.

Founded in 2018, the National Bell Festival (BellFest) is the annual New Year’s celebration in Washington, D.C. On the first day of the year, tower bells across the country ring together and unite communities around evenings of listening , eclectic events and special programming. The organization works year-round to restore DC’s bells and towers to their thunderous former glory. Throughout the pandemic, BellFest has moved with agility, offering virtual programming designed to safely foster the community, while continuing its fundraising efforts to take this important first step.

BellFest is on a mission to discover America’s history through the bells that hang above us or, in the case of the Georgetown Lutheran Church bell, a bell that was firmly seated on the ground. . The National Bell Festival’s historic bell restoration projects sometimes require them to climb dusty ladders in search of clues as to a bell’s age or provenance.

A Lutheran church bell in Georgetown was well known to have hung in the tower as early as 1780, and that same bell could be heard ringing in 1829, as described in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Beatty vs. Kurtz. But was the bell being restored to this original bell? To find out, the National Bell Festival turned to its resident campanologist, Benjamin Sunderlin of the BA Sunderlin Bellfoundry in Ruther Glen, Virginia. Ben’s first job was to inspect the bell and provide a professional assessment of its condition and origin. Inspection of the bell involved cleaning the surface of oxidation (rust) and toxic patina, testing the metal composition, and analyzing fractures within the structure. After Ben’s work was completed, it was concluded that the Georgetown Lutheran Bell was most likely cast in the mid to late 19th century.

This can be attributed to three main bell finds: the main bell metal is cast iron, the shape of the bell indicates later designs, and there are no obvious marks or signatures to indicate a foundry. No one knows where the original bell is, but somewhere along the story arc, one bell was replaced by another. Most likely lost during the Civil War, the bell was greatly missed by the church and later replaced with a proper bell.

Some bells crack – especially very old bells that have survived the worst damage that centuries, civil war, and exposure to the elements can cause. This is the case of the bell of the Lutheran church in Georgetown. The crack was mapped and stabilized, and a new wood and steel bracket was constructed to safely display the bell inside the church.

Concluding this historic bell restoration project, National Bell Festival guests and members of the congregation gathered around the veil-draped bell in the church’s narthex, following morning worship in the oldest Washington Lutheran Church. Before revealing the newly restored bell, festival director Paul Ashe made a few remarks about the bell’s enigmatic past.

A blessing from Pastor Brett Wilson rededicated the bell, which had not rung since the mid-20th century, to the mission of the church. Congregation member Sophie Guiny then led a countdown to the first sound, when three clear strokes of the clapper produced rich, resonant tones, to the general approval of those gathered. An inscription engraved on a plaque at the base of the structure indicates:

This 19th century bell
Donated to the church in 1973 by William H. Stombock
Has been restored by the National Bell Festival
And rededicated to mark the 250th anniversary
Of the founding of the Georgetown Lutheran Church


About the National Bell Festival

The National Bell Festival Inc., a registered 501(c)(3) charity, presents the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Washington, DC. On the first day of the year, the tower bells of the nation’s capital ring together and unite the community around listening evenings, eclectic events and special programming. BellFest also works throughout the year to restore historic bells and steeples to their former glory.

Paul Ashe
National Day of the Bells
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