Last spring, people throughout the hamlet of Essex began to realize that they no longer heard the chimes ringing from the old lock tower at Essex Community Church. The clock still marked the time, but the bell had fallen silent. A gear had worn away, and even though it could be replaced, there was no guarantee that the rest of the chiming mechanism would continue to work. Essex had “lost its voice,” and something had to be done.
When the church put out a call for donations to help restore the chimes in summer of 2018, generous donors rose to the occasion to help cover the $7,000 cost to install electronic chimes. Church trustee Al Dybas, who is also a master electronics engineer, sought out a system from the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, a firm that has installed tower clocks and chimes across the U.S. since 1842. Dybas also volunteered to install the system himself, at no charge. Although the clock would still be manually wound, the sound of the new system would match the “voice” of the old bell to ring out the hour and the half-hour automatically. Tradition restored.
On December 8, 2018, during the town-wide celebration known as “The Magic of Christmas in Essex,” the new system rang out the time and chimed Christmas carols throughout the day. Town Councilman Ken Hughes, co-chair of the event and president of Essex Initiatives, said many people told him that hearing the bell and the chimes “made the day.”
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But the story doesn’t end there. Essex Community Church still needs to follow up with Phase 2 of the tower restoration project: The old clock itself still has to be wound by hand, which means that every week someone has to climb more than 50 feet inside the tower, crawling through several small openings and above the church balcony, to wind the clock and match the time with the more accurate electronic bell system. The time has come to leap into the 21st century and add an electronic controller to the clock itself.
Although the church plans to apply for grant funding to help cover the cost of this and other needed church repairs, successful grant applications show matching funds from the community involved. To contribute, please send your donation to ECC, c/o Church Maintenance Fund, P.O. Box 125, Essex, NY 12936. Thank you!