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The Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

December 15, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Downtown has historic bells, but they’re silent and sitting on the ground

firebellnumberfour121509m.jpg
2:20 p.m. [Click on sketch to view larger]
Ernest Jenner, of North Bend, shared some interesting information after reading my post about John Cox, the bellringer at St. Spiridon Cathedral who has been lobbying the city to install bells at the King Street Station clock tower.
Jenner said that downtown Seattle had two magnificent fire bells which are still owned by the city. One is on a sidewalk next to MOHAI and the other one is at fire station No. 5 on the waterfront, where I stood to do my sketch while rain poured this afternoon.
The bells are more than 100 years old and used to ring out the numbers of the street corner fire alarm boxes so fire trucks and engines could respond from wherever they happened to be at the time. They could be heard for nearly 10 miles.
Galen Thomaier, the Seattle Fire Department historian, said the bell at the waterfront has been on that location since 1963.
I wonder how many people have noticed it. I looks pretty sad, sitting on the asphalt like any other car parked on the street.
“These bells signaled something truly significant was happening in the community. That the community would honor them by being heard again would be significant as well,” Jenner said.
Whether at the King Street Station clock tower or somewhere else, I also think these bells deserve a better display from where they can ring again.
You can see historic photos of the bells on their fire stations bell towers at the Last Resort Seattle Fire Department website.

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