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A Report from the Artifacts Committee

According to the Somers Congregational Church Web site, the Artifacts Committee has been working on various projects related to items recovered from the demolition of the old church.

This information was published in the  restoration news center on Sept. 5, 2012:

From the Artifacts Committee

The Artifacts Committee has been working on various projects related to items recovered from the demolition of our old church.  Since the day of the fire, David Morton took on the project of the church bell.  He researched several bell experts who examined the bell post fire and advised our committee in a variety of ways.

Here’s a short history of the bell: It was made in 1850 by Meneely in West Troy, NY.  It is a 36” diameter bronze bell that weighed 990 lbs.   It had a raised “Arm and Hammer” design that made the bell special from other bells of its era.  The design is surrounded by the Latin motto “Percute Dolce Cano” meaning “Strike me and I will sing sweetly”.

In regards to the Artifacts Committee's decision regarding the bell, we had several avenues to research and many considerations along the way:

Insurance Company – One interesting dynamic in our committee’s decision making is the fact that the bell is technically the property of our insurance company.  If our committee decides to use it for any purpose, our church will need to “buy back” the bell from the insurance company at a cost of several thousand dollars.  The bell was covered by insurance at replacement value to purchase a new bell.  With the reimbursement though, the old bell becomes the property of the insurance company.

Displaying the old bell - Unfortunately, the old bell was extensively damaged by the fire and it was warped, charred, cracked in several places and has a large hole on the top.  Pastor Barry Cass also felt it would be a constant sad reminder of the fire.  He really would like for the new church to be uplifting for our congregation and community.  After conferring with the Building Committee and Pastor Barry, the Artifacts Committee determined that the bell was not in good enough condition to be displayed in or outside the new church.  Our committee also took into consideration the costs of “buying back” the bell from the insurance company and the costs of several thousand dollars to create a display to house a 990 lb. bell.  Based on the condition of the bell, we determined that it did not make economic or practical sense to choose this option.

Melting down the bell to create a replica - We spoke with bell foundries who advised us that due to the age of the bronze and the damage from the fire, it would take a lot of refining to remove the impurities from the bronze of the old bell.  The estimate given to our committee was that it “might have been possible” to have used 30% of the bronze from the old bell to create a replica bell.  If we chose to go this route, there would be additional costs associated with refining the impurities from the old bell.  It was estimated to cost our church $1,000 to ship the old bell to the foundry to have it melted down.  These additional costs would not be covered by our insurance company.  Also, those additional costs do not include “buying back” the bell from the insurance company.  That would make this option cost several thousand dollars for the “possibility” of 30% of the old bell to be included in the making of a new bell.  The Artifacts Committee decided not to choose this option for economic and practicality reasons.

Arm & Hammer Design – Two bell foundries, Verdin and Church Specialties made presentations for the Building Committee and the Artifacts Committee regarding the making of replica bells.  These bell experts advised our committee that it was unusual for a bell of that era to have a raised design.  The “Arm and Hammer” design is surrounded by the Latin motto “Percute Dolce Cano” meaning “Strike me and I will sing sweetly”.

After conferring with the Building Committee, Pastor Barry Cass and Anne Kirkpatrick (church moderator), the Artifacts Committee decided that we wanted to remove the “Arm & Hammer” design from the bell.  That way, the part of the bell that was special could be saved and displayed in the new church.

We asked Rick Skodinski, chair of the Insurance Committee, to ask our insurance company for permission to remove the piece from the bell.  The insurance company gave the permission and the piece was removed from the bell at the end of August.  The Artifacts Committee would like to thank Scott Daigle and Tony Cardarella from Daigle’s Diversified Welding Services, LLC of Somers for donating their services.

Plaque for the new church – The piece with the “Arm and Hammer” design that was removed from the bell will be made into a plaque for the new church.  The piece of the bell will be displayed in the new church in a location to be determined.  This will allow generations to see the special part of the old bell.  After careful consideration of other options already mentioned above, the Artifacts Committee decided this was the best option for our church.

Respectfully Submitted,

Janice Morton, Chair                                  Paul McKiernan

Liesbeth Burns                                          David Morton

Ailene Henry, Church Historian                    Sharon Renzoni

Laura McKiernan                                        Deborah Zuzba

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