Bell done! Edgartown’s Whaling Church bell is returned to tower

The first step was to lift the bell out of Greg Blaine's truck. Mr. Blaine refurbished the bell and its parts. — Photo by Steve Myrick

The 1,500-pound bronze bell that has heralded services and ceremonies both joyous and solemn in Edgartown since 1843, returned Friday to the steeple tower of the Edgartown United Methodist Church, after the bell was refurbished.

The bell, which rings from the steeple of the church that is commonly known as the Old Whaling Church, on Main Street in Edgartown, and all its mounting hardware was in treatment over the past five months.

On Friday, a crew from the Baxter Crane Company joined Greg Blaine of Blaine’s Welding, along with Steve Ewing, and Joshua Kresel, of Aquamarine Dockbuilders, to return the bell, cast in 1843, to its perch.

They hoisted, jacked, levered, skidded, turned, wrenched, drilled, and bolted the bell with equal amounts of skill, ingenuity, and muscle.

The bell clapper was the last piece to be reassembled. Once it was secured, the men each laid a hand on the historic bronze bell, and with a push and a pull, they set the bell to pealing, the clear rings reverberating once again over Edgartown.

The removal of the bell in January and the restoration of all its mounting hardware are part of a restoration project by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, which owns the Old Whaling Church.

It has been more than four decades since anyone rang the bell by pulling a rope in the church foyer. That will now be possible.

“In a lot of ways, the bell is a symbol of the town. Now we’ll also be able to operate it for special events, graduations, wedding, town meetings, funerals,” Preservation Trust executive director Chris Scott said. “There’s a lot of credit to spread around on this. There are companies that specialize in doing this work, but I really felt we had the talent on the Island to handle it. They always do good work, but their work can be heavy, dirty work. This was a really interesting project for them, a once in a lifetime project.”

In addition to Mr. Blaine, Mr. Ewing, and Mr. Kresel, Mr. Scott praised two other craftsmen who helped with the restoration, completed with $50,000 in Community Preservation Act funds. John Anderson restored the wooden wheel, and Mike Fuss of Offshore Cycle fabricated some metal parts.