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Bell returned to Park Street Church will chime again for the first time in decades

The original large Park Street Church bell fitted with a new clapper and frame was raised by a crane to the steeple Saturday morning.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

For the first time in more than 60 years, the bells ringing from Park Street Church won’t be coming from a recording, but from a 200-year-old bell that was returned to the church’s steeple Saturday morning.

The 1,500-pound bell was hoisted into the belfry of the church’s steeple more than two-and-a-half years after it was removed for restorations. The sight gave members of the church and other onlookers a chance to see a piece of history returning home — and a chance for Boston philanthropist Bobby Sager, who paid for the project, to see his neighborhood regain its authentic voice.

“It feels fuller,” Sager said, kissing the bell before a crane lifted it above Park Street. “The bell is a voice. It’s a real voice. It’s a connection and relationship to the neighborhood.”


Bobby Sager became emotional as he listened to the tone of the large original bell before it was lifted by a crane into the belfry of the Park Street Church steeple. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Sager lives on Tremont Street overlooking the Boston Common. Hearing the bell’s chime, he said, has been a sweet spot in his day ever since he moved to the neighborhood 30 years ago.

“Whenever you hear the bells, it takes you to a higher place. It’s ethereal,” he said. “It gives everybody that moment in the day to pause and think about deeper things or to just pause and take a deep breath”

The bell was installed in the church’s belfry in 1819, a decade after the church first opened. It was cast in London by the same makers of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and rang every day until it was replaced with a recording in 1960. But not because of a Liberty Bell-type situation.

The bell wasn’t cracked or damaged but the support systems that made it swing had deteriorated to the point where it was not functional.

Workers guide the original large Park Street Church bell into the belfry of the steeple of the church Saturday morning.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

“It’s a historic church building, so it was important to do the bell tolling in a historic way even if it is with the carillon,” said Mike Ahearn, the church’s administrator.


Sager was shocked when he learned five years ago that the bell chimes he loved were only a recording. So, Ahearn said, he set out to return the bell to its former glory by paying for its restoration.

The bell was taken to Ohio to be restored by Meeks, Watson and Company. The foundry built a new frame and wheel for the bell and cast five smaller bells made of copper and tin to accompany it in the church’s steeple, said Don Mills, an architect who worked on the project. The bells also have a new motor to swing them and a striker that can make the timing of their chimes more precise.

“The organist is delighted because he has a new toy to play with,” Mills said.

The project cost about $250,000 and was supposed to be completed by July 2020. But because of worker shortages during the pandemic, the foundry had to wait until this spring to resume work on the bells, Mills said.

The bells left Ohio in trucks Friday afternoon to travel overnight for their homecoming in Boston. It will take a week or so for crews to finish installing them and inspecting the belfry, but Sager said he doesn’t mind waiting that much longer to finally hear them ring.

“It will wake people up to the fact that we have this important church in our midst, and it will wake people up to what’s going on in their day,” he said. “It’s just a beautiful thing.”


Caroline Enos can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.