Known to have one of the best liberal arts programs in the nation, Choate Rosemary Hall has been around since 1890. It was established by Mary Atwater Choate. Nestled in Wallingford, Connecticut, this elite boarding school for grades 9-12 has had some notable alumni throughout the years. This list includes John F. Kennedy, who started attending Choate Rosemary Hall in 1931 when he was in the 9th grade and his older brother Joe Jr. Jamie Lee Curtis and Ivanka Trump are also notable alumni of the school. The 458-acre campus boasts over 100 buildings such as a library, a pool, several dining halls, a student activities center, and the Seymour St. John Chapel.
Formerly known as St. Andrew’s Chapel, the Seymour St. John Chapel was built in 1924. Atop the chapel, you will find the 10 Meneely bells and a chime stand also built by Meneely to play these bells. The school had the chimes placed on the top floor of the chapel, which meant students had to climb an almost vertical staircase to get up and play them. The engineering department wondered if there was a safer way for the students to play the chimes without having to climb the stairs.
When they called McShane Bell Company, we had one of our installers, do a site visit on October 19th and 20th to explore the feasibility of moving the chime stand down and the structure. We concluded that the cables ultimately would need to stay straight for the best reaction. Before dismantling, the chime stand was labeled to ensure proper reinstallation.
Moving the chime stand to make it easier to access became a top priority at the time because the historic building was already undergoing restoration after being damaged by a fire last year. Not only was the fire damage repaired, but a few new additions were made to make the building more accessible to all students. An addition on the west side of the building added a second entrance so students could enter easily. The addition on the north side of the building made it handicap accessible. These additions enhanced the historic building, but there was a need to move the chimes so that more students could access them.
We had to take the chimes apart to move them. We made sure every component was labeled before we dismantled the piece. Each square bolt was removed and placed aside. The individual parts were lowered down to the next level since they were too large to move in pieces by the staircase. The pieces were reassembled on the proper floor, and then, using a laser, we were able to ensure the new cables dropped exactly to the correct position of the chime stand. The cables were directed through stained wood and nylon bushings to keep everything as straight and true as possible. The chime stand was then bolted into place and is now ready for a new crop of chime masters to play and express themselves on this 100-year-old chime stand.