Lexington Avenue Baptist Church bells refurbished

Published 6:42 am Monday, July 13, 2020

The 79-year-old, 11 bronze bells in the belfry at Lexington Avenue Baptist Church are getting much-needed refurbishing this summer.

“They’re well past time to get them out and redo them,” said Sean Wooten, with Verdin Company of Cincinnati which is working on the lofty project.

Wooten said he detached the heavy bells from a steel frame in the belfry on Tuesday. On Wednesday, a member of the Verdin family, who still owns and operates the company that began in 1842, was high above the treetops carefully hooking each bell to a crane and it’s clapper to a special rope, which were gently lowered to the flatbed trailer setting on Fifth Street, where Wooten then carefully unhooked everything and the process began again.

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Wooten said the bells were being taken back to Verdin’s headquarters where they will be cleaned and polished. But more importantly, the steel frame, cast iron plates and rusted and twisted bell head bolts that hold the bells in place will be replaced, Wooten explained.

The mechanism that makes the bells chime will also be updated so that the church can program in melodies and peals for special occasions and to mark the time, he added.

The bells were a gift to Lexington Avenue Baptist Church by Mr. and Mrs. John A. Chesnut in 1941, according to the engravings on the bells and from Advocate-Messenger archives.

A newspaper article on May 21, 1941 announced that the Chesnuts had just signed a contract for the chimes to be made by the Old Meneely Bell foundry in Watervliet New York, and that they had to be in place by Sept. 1 of that year. “The chimes will be played on special occasions and at regular intervals from a small keyboard attached at the console of the organ. The cost of the chimes will be more than $5,000,” according to the article.

The Meneely company met the deadline, and a dedication service was held at the church Aug. 24, 1941. A special program was organized in honor of the dedication and three services were held that day – at 10:45 a.m., 2:15 p.m. and 7:45 that night, the article stated.

The obituary for John Chesnut, on Dec. 2, 1951 stated he was 89 when he died and was a widely known businessman and prominent member and officer of Lexington Avenue Baptist Church.

He was affiliated for many years with Chesnut-Salter-Best Hardware Co. on West Main Street. Chesnut was a charter member of the church, was chairman of its Board of Deacons and in 1950 was elected honorary life chairman. He also taught the Amoma Sunday school class for 43 years.