We Have Liftoff

For the first time in decades, a bell has hung at Georgetown Lutheran Church – not in the church’s formidable grey stone tower, nor in the purpose-built pagoda of the surrounding gardens, but rather, very humbly, from a small crane as it was hoisted into the bed of a truck. This brief lift marks the first step in restoring the historic bell and setting it ringing again. 

Our story picks up after the Civil War when the church's eighteenth century bell, which had hung in the original church tower (as documented in a Supreme Court case from 1829), was sold to pay debts incurred during the war. Then, nearly 75 years later, a congregant secures a new bell (conflated in church lore and some stories to be the same as the old bell) and brought it to Georgetown, but it never found its way into the bell tower and it hasn’t rung since.

To mark the congregation’s 250th anniversary celebration taking place this year, the National Bell Festival tapped B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry to complete the delicate restoration work and preserve this piece of bell history.

Centuries of weather and stress are evidenced on the surface of the bell, which is oxidized and cracked.

Sunderlin representatives Goff and Ryan arrived at the church this afternoon in personal protective gear (we are, after all, navigating life with coronavirus). The bell was carted out from a small storage room beneath the bell tower under the watchful gaze of both church and BellFest representatives (standing well apart). It then traversed the gardens and was lifted into the back of a waiting pickup truck. At several hundred pounds, lifting the bell required a portable crane and two strapping young bellmakers to raise it a few feet and nestle it gently into the bed for its journey south to the foundry.

The masks came off (ever so briefly) so that the bellmakers might more fluidly navigate the delicate work of positioning the heavy bell for transport.

Over the next few weeks, Sunderlin Bellfoundry will thoroughly assess the bell’s condition, both cosmetically and structurally, before beginning the work of refurbishment. So don’t miss out! We’ll be documenting each step of the process as this amazing piece of history gets spruced-up and reinstalled at Georgetown Lutheran Church.


Georgetown Lutheran Church

This article is part of a curated series on our work to restore the bell at Georgetown Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C. Continue exploring:

The National Bell Festival would like to thank B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry for their exceptional work in preserving this bell of historic importance.