A block of Main Street in downtown Edgartown was closed for three hours Monday morning while a crew from the Baxter Crane Company extracted the 1,500-pound bronze bell from the tower of the Old Whaling Church.
The removal of the bell and all its mounting hardware begins a restoration project by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust. The project is funded in part by a $25,000 grant from Edgartown’s Community Preservation Act account. The trust owns the Old Whaling Church, but the clock inside is town property — a gift to Edgartown in 1889 from Charles Darrow — and Edgartown traditionally helps with the costs of the clock’s maintenance.
This is the first time the bell, cast in 1843 in the Boston foundry of Henry N. Cooper & Co., has been down from the tower. According to Chris Scott, executive director of the Preservation Trust, the plan for this project was to leave the clock in the tower while its frame, wheel, and counterweights were restored. But when several other maintenance issues in the tower revealed themselves, the trust decided to remove the bell while these are addressed.
In the months ahead, the church bell’s frame and mechanism will be rebuilt at a foundry in New Hampshire. Island welder Greg Blaine, project manager, will refinish the bell in his shop. He’ll also refabricate the bell’s clapper and sling, and will rebuild the flywheel which allows the bell to operate manually — something it hasn’t been able to do in years.
Steve Ewing will rebuild the bell’s cribbing with marine-grade lumber. The membrane roofing inside the tower will be replaced by Associate Roofing, which this week finished replacing the roof at Alley’s Store in West Tisbury, another Island institution owned by the trust.
Mr. Scott says the trust hopes to have the bell back in place, chiming the hours in Edgartown, as it has done for the past 122 years, before Memorial Day.