Ding dong! Revere Bell returns to First Baptist Church

May 17—First Baptist Church's historic Revere Bell is back home, but it's not back up just yet.

The bell arrived at the Meadville church on Diamond Park on Thursday morning after a successful restoration that began last summer.

Cast in the early 1830s in Boston at the Paul Revere Foundry, the Revere Bell was lowered from the church's bell tower last August. It then was taken to the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, a world-renowned manufacturer of cast bronze bells, for restoration.

Restoration and preservation of the church's historic Revere Bell and its bell tower is an estimated $220,000 project that still needs about $50,000.

Getting the bell restored is a major hurdle cleared in the project, according to Paul Oppenlander, a trustee of the church and project manager for the restoration.

The bell now has its original bronze luster, a new clapper and a new yoke (the cross piece from which a bell is hung and swung).

Work on restoration of the bell tower itself will be done in the spring of 2025, according to Oppenlander.

To clean the bell, Verdin employees blasted it with a particulate that didn't damage it.

"That would have been the color of the bell when it came out of the foundry," Oppenlander said when asked if the bell actually had been painted its golden yellowish color during restoration.

"It came a long way, it's like a night-and-day project," he said. "I love seeing the new yoke on it. It's a whole different bell."

The bell now will be ready for closeup public display for the next two to three years before it will go back into the tower.

As part of the restoration project, there is a display stand from Verdin to hold the bell for public display.

"We hope to have it ready by about the end of June," Oppenlander said. "We want to have people see it versus just hear it the bell in the tower. We're planning on a grand public reveal in July."

Getting the bell inside the church offices took a bit of doing Thursday.

The bell was to be placed on a cart to go inside. However, it had to be raised from the cart's surface and rest on 2-by-4 lumber in order to give clearance for the clapper (the part inside a bell that swings to make it ring).

"They (Verdin) had to do some changes to the clapper because the clapper originally was not centered on the crown of the bell," Oppenlander said. "It created some issues as they had to recast the clapper on the inside."

The church is grateful for $110,000 in grants toward the project, Oppenlander said.

It cost about $20,000 just to restore the bell, but last June the church received a $10,000 competitive grant from the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Historic Preservation Grants program. Days later, the project was awarded a $100,000 competitive grant from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, which requires matching funds.

Tracy Hibler Fazekas, northwest Pennsylvania district director for the Daughters of the American Revolution, was on hand to see the bell's arrival Thursday and was more than impressed when she saw it.

"I've got goosebumps," she said. "This is fantastic. It's just so beautiful."

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.