Approaching the Phillips Academy campus, the first image most people notice is the Memorial Bell Tower, the tallest building on campus. Donated by Samuel L. Fuller, Class of 1891 (who donated $75,000 for its construction), the bell tower stands as a memorial to the eighty five Andover men who died in military service to the United States during World War I.
Architect Guy Lowell designed the bell tower in 1919, based on the steeple of Boston’s Old South Meeting House. The original idea had been to place it on the west side of Main Street, where the main Academy buildings were located. When Trustees decided (in 1921) to design the tower for the east side of campus, where Andover Theological Seminary once stood, the tower location was moved to its present spot. This is notable as the site of the Old Training Field where the young men of Andover prepared for some of the nation’s early battles, including the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.
Built in 1923 of steel encased in brick, water easily penetrated the porous brick, and the steel began to rust and crack. In spite of its physical beauty, the engineering flaws of the original tower forced a full restoration in 2005. As a result, a 5.15 million dollar campaign was launched to fund the reconstruction and restoration.
Part of this effort turned its attention to the tower’s beloved carillon. Originally the tower was to hold a set of bells to chime the hours, not a carillon. But during construction, school officials traveled to Gloucester, Massachusetts and were so taken with their carillon the decision was made to add one to Andover’s tower as well. The original carillon consisted of 30 bells produced by the John Taylor Bellfoundry of Loughborough, England, and the inaugural concert was played on December 1, 1923 by New York organist Edward Shippen Barnes. In May of 1926 seven more bells were added—two lower chromatic tones and five chromatic high tones—making the new carillon the third largest in the country at 37 bells. In 1966 the highest 18 bells were replaced by new ones from Dutch bellfounder Petit & Fritsen.
The restoration portion of the 2005 project involved the cleaning and tuning of the English carillon bells, the replacement of the Petit & Fritsen bells, and the addition of a new octave to a total of 49 bells. Today’s carillon combines nineteen Taylor bells and thirty bells cast by the Royal Eijsbouts foundry in Asten, The Netherlands. The manual player’s console was replaced with an electronic carillon computer system and touch-sensitive MIDI keyboard in the base of the tower.
At noon on May 3, 2006, the bell tower sang out to the campus after being silent for over a decade. In addition to the newly renovated and expanded carillon, the old clock mechanism and chimes were replaced by an electronic system. The original bell tower rang the familiar Westminster chimes on the quarter hours from the time of its construction in 1923 until shortly after 1967, at which time the mechanism fell into disrepair. In spite of its questionable reliability, the mechanism for the carillon remained functional and was played regularly until its final concert on August 11, 1992.
In the months preceding the dedication of the refurbished carillon and bell tower, a committee of faculty and staff decided the Parsifal chime would act as the tower’s signature ring. This decision was made to recognize the “new” tower for our new century, and because the Parsifal chime outlines the opening melody of the Andover Hymn, composed by former music chair and Andover carillonneur, Carl F. Pfatteicher. In 2007 the choice of chime was opened to the PA campus in the form of a survey, and since the top three choices garnered fairly equal votes, the result was to play each at different times of year. The Parsifal chime plays from the summer solstice to winter solstice, the Guildford chime from Winter solstice to spring equinox, and the Westminster chime from spring equinox to summer solstice.