BRUNSWICK, Ohio — An effort by the Brunswick Area Historical Society to preserve the 1852 bell from the former First Christian Church adjacent to Towslee Elementary School has met with some resistance from members Brunswick City Council.
The historical society’s plan calls for reconstructing the church bell tower at the Heritage Farm property, at 4613 Laurel Road, where a new building to house artifacts from 200 years of Brunswick Schools history is also being constructed.
At a Jan. 25 Brunswick City Council parks and recreation committee meeting, committee members expressed reservations with erecting the proposed 12-foot bell tower on the property, indicating that it may not fit with the historical nature of the rest of Heritage Farm.
Ward 3 Councilwoman and parks and recreation committee chair, Valerie Zak, said that she supports incorporating the bell inside the museum in some manner instead. She added that city council approval for any proposed project on city property should be considered.
Bell tower project
In 2019 City Council approved an amendment to the historical society’s lease agreement with the city at Heritage Farm Museum and Park, for use of the front 4.2 acres of the farm property. This allowed for the construction of the additional Brunswick Schools museum building on the farm property, incorporating the original fa 1/4 u00e7ade of the former Edwards Middle School and bricks from Visintainer Middle School, both of which have been demolished to make way for the new Brunswick Middle School building.
In late 2020, the plan to construct the bell tower was added to the museum plans when the First Christian Church congregation sold its building after 174 years in the city. The church donated the bell tower, all electronics, and a financial contribution to the Brunswick Area Historical Society.
The historical society is selling the commemorative bricks from Visintainer in a project fundraising effort, with the bricks to be engraved with messages or in honor of a special person and placed in a walkway to the museum, around the bell tower columns, and as part of a 3 foot pillar honoring Brunswick veterans killed in action.
At the Jan. 25 meeting, Brunswick Parks and Recreation Director John Piepsny said the bell tower project would come before the city planning commission like any structure. Ward 2 Councilman Nick Hanek expressed concerns with the project being completed as planned and whether or not ongoing maintenance of the bell tower is being considered.
“The Brunswick Historical Society is a great organization and I think this (project) is going to go well,” Hanek said. “I am confident we can work with them, but I think it is important for them to appreciate that it is our job to say, ‘we need to do long term planning.’ This is similar to the situation at Brunswick Lake.”
Hanek said that even though the historical society has a lease agreement on the land where the bell tower and museum are being proposed, a “school of thought” that public property should be used in such a manner, with no long term maintenance plan, can be a dangerous one. He pointed to the Dino Trail and memorial arch at Brunswick Lake Park as specific examples of this.
Historical society president disagrees
Brunswick Historical Society President Carl Bilski said the group’s mission with the bell tower project is to simply honor its agreement with the First Christian Church congregation.
“I totally disagree (with the city council members’ position) but I understand,” Bilski said. He added that he plans to attend the next council parks and recreation committee meeting, scheduled for Feb. 22, to discuss the historical society’s position.
Bilski said material for the tower has already been ordered.
“This is already holding me up – I already built a trailer to pick up the four 12-foot tubes (to construct the columns) and I hope to see at least the footer and groundwork go in by spring,” he said.
Bilski said the committee’s suggestion that the bell tower be incorporated into the museum does not take into consideration a number of potential roadblocks – particularly the museum roof being able to support a 400-pound bell.
“And there is really no maintenance – the bell stood for 100 years and it still stood until they tore it down,” he said.
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