23 May 2010

Meneely Bell in Chinatown

On a trip to Troy, NY, two years ago I learned about the Meneely Bell Foundry. The company was established in West Troy in 1826 by Andrew Meneely. That foundry, and the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, founded later by a member of the same family, together produced 65,000 bells before they closed in 1952. The outfit was one of the most famous producers of bells in the nation. Meneely bells went everywhere, and are still in use. Or so I was told at the time.

I never saw a Meneely bell until recently. It sits outside the Mariners Temple Baptist Church on Oliver Street in Chinatown. The Greek revival church was built in 1845 (there has been a church on this site since 1795) and is in a sad, crumbling state. Like so many early Manhattan churches, it was swallowed up by Chinatown long ago and now seems an out-of-place relic of an earlier time.

The bell is no longer in use; it sits to the right of the entrance staircase behind a cast-iron fence. It's about four feet tall and must weigh a couple tons. Along the side are the words "From Mcneelys' West Troy, N.Y. 1855." So it's an early piece of work from the company. I guess when you're in the bell business, the products you leave behind don't disappear too easily.

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