What is That Bell Resting on a Stone Pedestal in Front of the Richard J. Daronco Townhouse at 20 Fifth Avenue?
If you live in Pelham, NY, you likely have been inside the Richard J. Daronco Townhouse or at least passed it hundreds if not thousands of times. Though you may never have given it a second thought, perhaps you have noticed the large bell resting on a stone pedestal in front of the building to the left of the entrance. That bell, shown in the image below, is an interesting part of Pelham's history.
If you inspect the bell and its stone pedestal closely, you will learn a little, but not much, about its origins. On its front (facing Fifth Avenue), the bell contains the following inscription:
JOHN PELL LORD of the MANOR
PHILIP JACOB RHINELANDER
1669 + 1894 [+ = Maltese Cross]
PRESENTED by their DESCENDANTS
HOWLAND PELL WILLIAM RHINELANDER
T. J. OAKLEY RHINELANDER
PHILIP RHINELANDER & HENRY G. TREVOR
'COME FOR ALL THINGS ARE READY.'"
On the rear of the bell (facing the Town House) is the following inscription:
TROY, N. Y.
At the foot of the stone pedestal is a memorial plaque that reads as follows:
MY BELOVED PARENTS,
JAMES AND HELEN LEALE
FROM THEIR DEVOTED DAUGHTER
HELEN LEALE HARPER, JR."
At the very base of the pedestal is a large datestone that contains a cross and the date "1892" carved into it.
The bell and the datestone are from The Church of The Redeemer in Pelhamville. That church began as a mission station of Christ Church in the Manor of Pelham in 1859 when a resident of Pelhamville (today's Village of Pelham north of the New Haven Line railroad tracks) asked Nanette Bolton to come and hold a Sunday school for the neighborhood. The first meeting was held in an orchard under the trees.
Soon it was apparent that local residents would support a church in the neighborhood. One of Robert Bolton's sons, the Rev. John Bolton, began holding services in the "upper room" of the tiny little wooden Pelhamville railroad station on the New Haven Line and, later, in the loft of a nearby carpenter's shop that had to be entered by a ladder.
Attendance at the services grew. The services were moved to the little wooden Pelhamville schoolhouse that stood near today's Hutchinson School.
The Senior Warden of Christ Church in Pelham Manor and the Rector arranged the purchase of a lot on Fourth Avenue as well as an old "carpenter's shop" that was moved and placed on the lot to become the first permanent church building in the area.
The parish had some early difficulties and was even reorganized in 1881. One of Robert Bolton's sons, the Rev. Cornelius Winter Bolton became the first Rector of the newly-reorganized church.
In 1892, as the datestone beneath the bell indicates, the parish built a lovely stone church of modified English Gothic style. The congregation worshipped in the lovely building for many decades.
By 1920, however, the leaders of the parish conluded that the "Church could have no future, if it remained where it was" on Fourth Avenue. They purchased a lot at 20 Fifth Avenue to build a new church.
Preparations took years, but on September 28, 1928, the cornerstone for a new Parish House was laid on the lot at 20 Fifth Avenue. The Parish House, which we know today as the Richard J. Daronco Town House, was built of colorful stone from quarries in Yonkers. The opening exercises and dedication of the new Parish House took place on May 5, 1930. The bell and datestone from the lovely church building on Fourth Avenue were placed as a memorial in front of the new church.
The Church of The Redeemer served residents of the Village of North Pelham for many decades. According to a recently prepared history of the Parish of Christ The Redeemer, however, by the early 1970s "it had become clear that the town of Pelham could no longer support two Episcopal parishes."
At about this time, the Episcopal Diocese pursued a project called "Mission 72" requiring every parish to formulate meaningful plans for the future. As a recent history of the parish puts it: "Mission 72 provided the impetus for Christ Church and the Church of The Redeemer to look seriously at merging into one parish."
After careful consideration by the two congregations and both vestries, "a decision was made to become the united Parish of Christ the Redeemer. Christ Church was selected as the house of worship and the property of the Church of the Redeemer was turned over to the Town of Pelham to be used for a municipal hall, a center for senior citizens and a child care facility." This, of course, is what we know today as The Richard J. Daronco Town House located at 20 Fifth Avenue.
Residents of Pelham donated the bell to The Church of The Redeemer. Among those residents, who believed themselves to be descendants of John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor of Pelham, was Howland Pell, a local historian who had studied and written about the history of the Pell family and Pelham.
The Clinton H. MeNeely Bell Company, Troy New York
Clinton H. Meneely, who lived from 1839 to 1923, was the youngest of three sons of Andrew Meneely. During the late 1860s, Clinton Meneely opened a bell foundry on the east bank of the Hudson River opposite a foundry started by his father and run by his two brothers. Though they were family, they competed intensely with one another for the nation's bell casting business.
Early in the history of the firm, Clinton Meneely worked with a man named George Harzard Kimberly whose sister had married into the Meneely family. The firm initially was named "Meneely and Kimberly". It was located in Troy, New York on the east side of River Street between Washington Street and Adams Street.
According to a variety of sources, Meneely & Kimberly cast its first bell in January, 1871. In about 1880 the firm changed its name to the Clinton H. Meneely Bell Co. The firm shipped its last Bell in April, 1951 after which it closed.
There is a large amount of excellent information about the Clinton H. Meneely Bell Co. available on the Web. To learn more about the company, and the related company begun by Clinton H. Meneely's father, Andrew, see:
Meneely Bell Online Museum
Meneely Bicentennial Web Site
The Bell Casters of Troy by Sydney Ross
Index to Carillons and Chimes by Meneely (Troy)
Please visit the Historic Pelham Web site
Located at http://www.historicpelham.com.