Carillon once again adds music to campus

The Citadel's carillon rings proudly these days, nearly two decades after its bells were silenced by deterioration.

Five years ago, the Class of 1957 embarked on a fundraising and restoration effort that has so far brought in $80,000 and put the bells in working order so they may resonate across campus again. Harmannus "Harry" van Bergen, who graduated in 1957 and whose family's business first installed the bells in 1954, spearheaded the project.

The Thomas Dry Howie Carillon is a memorial to the Major of St. Lo, a 1929 alumnus who earned that name posthumously after being killed in France during the allied invasion of St. Lo.

The carillon rang for the first time in years during Homecoming in October and this month played Christmas carols for campus visitors. Until this year, an electric system installed in the 1980s meant the carillon was only capable of playing the Westminster chimes on the quarter hour.

"It's a historic instrument," van Bergen said. "We wanted to bring it back to playing condition before it could not be replaced." Many members of the Class of 1957 were on campus in October to hear the carillon debut. "It was pretty exciting," van Bergen said. "A lot of my classmates said 'Tears came to my eyes.' It was a pretty moving experience."

Van Bergen is president of the now Charleston-based bell making company that his family started in the United States in 1939 when H.T. van Bergen brought two carillons to display at the World's Fair in New York City. According to company's website, Holland was at war then, preventing the van Bergens from returning home. After World War II, van Bergen Bellfoundries, Inc. established the first bellfoundry in America that actually tuned bells. Larger bells were still imported from Holland, but smaller instruments were cast in Greenwood, S.C.

The Citadel's carillon is a memorial to Thomas Dry Howie, a 1929 Citadel graduate who was killed in 1944 in World War II. Graduates Charles Daniel (Class of 1918) and R. Hugh Daniel (Class of 1929), also the namesakes of The Citadel library, donated the money for the carillon and tower.

The carillon is a set of bronze bells attuned to intervals of the chromatic scale with a possible range of seven octaves. It is one of the largest Dutch bell installations in the Western Hemisphere. It was cast at the famous Royal Bergen Bellfoundries in Heiligerlee, The Netherlands.

The 59 bells, totaling 30,300 pounds, vary in size from 25 pounds to the 4,400 pounds of the great Bourdon, as the lowest brass bell is called. Van Bergen said the first two phases of the restoration project have been completed. The 90-foot high bell tower, located next to Summerall Chapel on the Avenue of Remembrance, was repaired, the elevator fixed, the steel replaced and the roof waterproofed during the first phase. The second phased made it possible for 18 of the bells to be played from an ivory keyboard. Previously, the carillon was played manually.

The third part of the restoration is to fix the manual mechanisms. "We hope to have cadets able to play again prior to parades and other special occasions," van Bergen said.

As a cadet, van Bergen played the carillon during parades. He wants to raise an additional $100,000 to complete the restoration, set up a maintenance fund and establish an endowed scholarship so a cadet can play the carillon. "We have only just begun," he said.


Anyone interested in helping with the carillon restoration project may send their tax-deductible checks made payable to the Citadel-Carillon REstoration and mail checks to:

Harry van Bergen
P.o. Box 12928
Charleston, SC 29422-2928