06 December 2010

Strong Place Church Rings a Bell

The Strong Place Church in Cobble Hill began its conversion into a condo complex sometime well before Obama became President and the only Tea Partys in America were held by little girls in pink dresses. Today, it's near completion, with the wooden fencing around the property finally disassembled and the cast iron fence around the 1853 church back in view.

That fence is currently being restored by a crew of workman, who are busily sanding away years of rust and corrosion, and then painted the fence, well, a kind of rust color. The lawn to the west of the church has been re-sod and looks in fine shape. The whole building, in fact, is remarkably handsome.

But most intriguing is the sudden site of a humungous cast-iron bell, which must have sat in the belfry at one time but now rests at the edge of the lawn. I wonder what is to become of it. I assume it will stay where it is, functioning as a large lawn ornament.

I zoomed in on the inscription printed on the side of the bell. It says the bell was presented to the Strong Place Baptist Church in 1853, the same year the church was built. So it's original. The bell hails from Meneely's in West Troy, New York, the birthplace of many bells across the nation, once upon a time. Which means this bell is actually two years older than this Meneely's bell in downtown Manhattan.

I found this old testimonial from Rev. Dr. Taylor back in the 1850s: "The bell you recently placed in the tower of the Strong Place Church, I am happy to inform you, is giving the most entire satisfaction, both to the generous donor and the citizens generally. It is universally admired for the richness and fullness of its tone, which are unsurpassed by any other bell in this or our adjacent city. [Ed. note: That would be Manhattan, i.e., New York.] The perfection of your arrangement for hanging has excited alike our surprise and admiration."

I wish I could have heard it.


upstate Johnny G said...

I'm thinking the bell is probably not iron. Bronze, likely. The green patina to me indicates the presence of copper, one element that makes up bronze.

Gee, converting a church to condos? How does that work, exactly? Any more photos of the exterior or interior that might shed a light???/

Anonymous said...

Back in my college days I spent several weeks one summer on a work-study job that consisted of painting an iron fence that surrounded much of the campus. It was similar in design to the one in the picture but taller, just over six feet, and the various segments added up to around a mile.

It was a horrendous job. First, we had to scrape off the rust that had accumulated in the decade or so since the last painting, use an iron brush to get the scraped-off areas down to the bare metal, add a coat of horrible-smelling orange primer to these areas, and finally paint the entire fence with a noxious oil-based paint. Getting paint spills off one's skin required turpentine and a great deal of vigorous rubbing. Even with two four-person crews we were able to finish only about 75% of the fence by the end of the summer.


Carol Gardens said...

This project was a complete gut but they had to preserve and restore the exterior as Cobble Hill is a historic district. They held an open house last weekend. There are at least 20 apartments in there at prices from 890K to the fanciest at 2 million (that's the one with the bottom half of the tower and all the cool windows). Very spacious and screams HIGH END! LUXURY! IF YOU LIVE HERE YOU ARE RICH! Took 4 1/2 years so far, btw. Nice decorative reuse inside of pews, light fixtures and some of the woodwork but the rest is brand new.