A Bit of Bell Nostalgia…
Tagged: Granite Glen Bell Museum
April 3, 2018 at 8:42 pm #26599Carolyn WhitlockParticipant
Many of us long-time members of ABA remember the late Winston H. Jones, the owner and operator of the Granite Glenn International Bell Museum. The museum is no longer in existence, unfortunately, and the bells have been donated to educational institutions or sold. I have just come across this article on the Internet that was printed by the New York Times in 1982. I think other bell enthusiasts will find it interesting, too.
SANDRA FOUSHEE works in the Denver bureau of The Times. By SANDRA FOUSHEE
A museum exhibiting ”the country’s largest collection of bells” might be expected to welcome visitors with the gentle chiming of a church bell or a jingle of sleigh bells, or perhaps even the ”Come in now, come in now” of a rural school bell. But silence, broken only by the purr of a mountain stream, greets the visitor driving in from Upper Bear Creek Canyon to the Granite Glen International Bell Museum, just outside Evergreen, Colo., about an hour out of Denver.
The bell museum and grounds house nearly 4,000 bells, dating from 1000 B.C. to the present. The curator of the museum, Winston H. Jones, has been collecting since 1925. So unerring is his instinct in searching out unusual examples in old schoolhouses, firehouses and antique shops that some of his friends joke that he can ”smell bells.”
Set among the trees as you approach the museum are a Spanish campanile with three bronze bells from Nebraska; a tower modeled after a Danish original for a Lutheran church bell called ”Ebeneezer in the Pines”; and a free-standing stone pillar-and-beam tower for several old bells from California, including a Monterey mission bell cast in 1770.
Every bell has its own history: A ship’s bell from the mid-1800’s was recovered from the Union, which ran on a reef and sank off Mexico; the Colorado school bell was used as an alert for mine disasters in the turn-of-the-century gold-mining towns of Cripple Creek and Victor. One of the largest bells is an 1,800-pound church bell, cast in 1882, which came by oxcart and narrow-gauge railroad into Leadville, Colo. It has been heard from as far away as 12 miles when rung with its tolling hammer.
(Every July 4 for nearly 20 years, Mr. Jones and his friends have rung all the bells on the grounds for four minutes.) At the entrance to the museum building, a weathered card informs visitors that the doorbell is ”out of order.” Inside, the walls are strung with more bells than the eye can take in. A window case shimmers with the vibrant colors of about 70 cut-glass and etched crystal handbells. At the other end of the room are bells made by Gerry Ballantyne, a Kansas City bellmaker. These, cast in bronze by the lost-wax method, include bells representing Hans Brinker, Paul Revere, Henry David Thoreau, Becky Thatcher, Joan of Arc and Evangeline, among others. Miniature bells, some less than a quarter of an inch in diameter, are also displayed.
There is an Ethiopian Coptic incense bell for frankincense and myrrh, bells that rang for the coronations of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II and a Florentine bell with which the Medicis called their servants. Among the American bells are some bearing the insignia of the United States Army Camel Corps, which briefly served in the Southwest, and a clay bell recovered from Pueblo Indian ruins near Santa Fe.
There are bells that once belonged to such celebrities as Lillian Russell, Sarah Bernhardt, Baby Doe Tabor and Harry Houdini. The Houdini bell, which he used in his magic act, is concealed within an outer shell of iron and an inner layer of lead (which even an X-ray will not penetrate). It looks like a cannon ball, and is small enough to be held comfortably in the palm of the hand. Usually the Houdini bell can be rung, but sometimes the clapper – or whatever the internal mechanism is – becomes mysteriously locked into place, silencing it. Only Houdini knew how the bell works. Once or twice it has been silenced accidentally, and Mr. Jones has had to shake it until the clapper was released by chance.
Many of the more valuable bells are in locked glass cases. Mr. Jones will ring various bells for tone and quality or – with the exception of the Houdini bell – demonstrate the mechanics of how they are rung as he guides groups through the museum…
The International Bell Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 to 5, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. At other times of the year, visitors should call Mr. Jones (303-674-3422) to arrange admission. The fee is $3 for adults and $1 for children under 12.
About Winston H. Jones
Former Hastings, Nebraska, resident, Winston H. Jones, 92, of Evergreen Colorado, died Monday, August 14, 2006 in Evergreen, Colorado. Mr. Jones was born May 15, 1914 in Omaha, Nebraska to Arthur H. & Blanche (Kelso) Jones. He graduated from High School and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Hastings College on June 5, 1939. He served in the United States Army during WWII. He married Erma Ament at First Presbyterian Church, Hastings, Nebraska on October 24, 1954 and she preceded him in death in 1972. In 1957, he joined the American Bell Association and soon after, founded the Colorado Chapter of the American Bell Association. He was owner of the International Bell Museum in Evergreen, Colorado. He was a member of Elks Lodge in Evergreen, Colorado and American Bell Association. He was a past member of First Presbyterian Church in Hastings.
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