Church bells raised into position at Highlands Episcopal Church

It was quite a spectacle for onlookers who happened to see over two tons of cast bronze bells hoisted 40 feet into the air at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Highlands on June 16.

Pictured below a crane hoists bells into position at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Highlands.

The 4 new bells weigh a total of 4,500 pounds with the largest weighing over 1,000 pounds. The bells are part of a $6M renovation currently in the works at the Church.

The set of 4 cast-bronze church bells weigh over 2 tons.

The bells were manufactured by The Verdin Company out of Cincinnati, and each are tuned to produce a different sound, said the Rev. Bentley Manning, Rector at Church of the Incarnation.

“For centuries, church bells have served the very basic function of calling people to prayer,” said Fr. Manning. “Additionally, bells are used to mark solemn occasions like weddings and funerals. It has been said that bells are a sort of ‘singing icon,’ as they create beautiful harmonic space around the church, just as art and architecture define it visually. In the mind of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ‘bells are the voice of the church.’”

Hoisting them into position can be tricky, said Andrew MacColl, Sr. Project Manager at J Davis Construction Inc in charge of the renovations.

“Challenges are traffic control, proper crane lifting height, and verification that other components will fit,” said MacColl.

The bells were hoisted into position late in the morning on June 16.

Work began in Nov. 2020, and highlights of the project include increasing the capacity of the main Sanctuary from 220 to 290, installing a door on the Main Street side of the building, adding a spire to the new Main Street entrance to balance out the bell tower on the 5th Street side, creating an option for service overflow into Jacobs Hall with direct line of sight to the Sanctuary instead of viewing on a TV screen, and making improvements to the 5th Street entrance.

Initial plans were to open the new sanctuary by June 1, but minor delays have pushed that date back to September.

“Minor delays on this,” said MacColl. “It is just a long process with eight different subcontractors to coordinate each installed component.”

The octagon base the bells sit on weighs 11,600 pounds.

Fr. Manning said at this stage in the project the new 5th Street entrance is nearly complete, the bells have been installed, the spire will arrive in mid-July, and new stone flooring is being installed in the main sanctuary.

Traffic needed to be managed throughout the lifting process.

He added that he’s grateful the community has been so understanding and patient throughout construction.

“I would like to thank the community again for their grace and forbearance during this project,” said Fr. Manning. “Construction can cause many inconveniences but I’m grateful for the encouragement and kind words we have received from so very many in the community.”

Fr. Bently Manning said at this stage in the project, the 5th Street entrance at the left of the frame is nearly complete.

MacColl said next on the list is installing new stone tiling in the Nave that was shipped overseas from Spain.

“We at JDavis are excited about this project and finishing up this early fall,” said MacColl. “It has been quite the challenge to figure out the existing components to this building. There are three different additions here and all were built at different time, so the construction is unique.”

Click HERE to read about the project’s initial launch.

A ‘clapper’ is what hits the bell and makes the chime.

Strapping in the bells before the left. The front of the truck hangs just above the ground as the outriggers are extended.

A couple minutes later the bells gently touch down in position.

Unstrapping the bells after they’ve been placed into position at the top of the tower.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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