The beauty of the historic rolling hills of Valley Forge National Historical Park is enhanced by the stately presence and noble sound of the National Patriots Bell Tower, a gift of National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Completed in 1953, the tower and its carillon are living memorials dedicated to the memory of General George Washington.
The Washington Memorial National Carillon evolved from a smaller collection of fourteen bells dedicated in 1926. Construction of the bell tower began in 1941 and was completed in 1953.
With 58 tuned bronze bells, the carillon ranks as one of the world’s largest and most beautiful. The bells weigh a combined total of 26 tons (ranging from 13½ pounds to 8,000 pounds) and cover a range of nearly five octaves.
Many modern carillons are played electronically, but this carillon is played entirely by hand from a keyboard located in the midst of the bells. The bells do not swing, but are bolted stationary in a steel framework. Keys and pedals are connected to the bells’ clappers by a mechanical system of direct cranks, roller bars, and steel cables. The keyboard of 58 oak batons and 24 pedals provides the carillonneur sensitive musical control of the instrument.
Directly beneath the bells is the carillonneur’s studio with a piano and practice keyboard. This keyboard uses hammers to strike small metal bars rather than the bells, allowing the carillonneur to practice quietly.
The Carillon’s Playing Cabin is in great need of renovation. The walls were never finished. The windows need to be replaced. The lighting and electrical need to be updated and properly enclosed. The floors needs to be recovered and the ceiling repainted. Like the chapel, the Washington Memorial National Carillon receives no governmental funding. Please consider making a donation.
These pictures were taken last Saturday, when small groups of us climbed the narrow steps for a private tour.