“FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS”
Amidst the quiet calm of a cemetery, the sound of chimes would seem especially riveting. Architects must have shared that impression, as structures housing bells are prominent features at certain cemeteries and memorial parks.
Sometimes a columbarium is part of such a structure. At the Garden of Memories, the Chimes Tower is a focal point central to the grounds.
It exceeds five stories, crowning the first columbarium for cremated remains ever built by a cemetery.
Similar formations in other parts of the country serve the same purpose, to varying degrees. The Chimes Tower at the Whitemarsh Memorial Park in Ambler, Pennsylvania is a commanding attraction, though access to the 174-foot edifice these days is restricted due to safety concerns. Glass-fronted niches seen upon entering can be visited only during office hours, as a key to the building is required for entry. People are no longer permitted to use the elevator to reach the top. Against the exterior back wall of the tower, though, there are additional columbarium niches that can be accessed at any time.
Nowadays, one might encounter a columbarium in a churchyard or on a college campus. At the Citadel military school in Charleston, South Carolina, it is situated in the campus bell tower that houses a carillon made in the Netherlands. A wall was built in the lower part of the structure to accommodate four hundred niches with enough room in each for two urns. Members of the Class of 1957 initiated the project, and the columbarium was dedicated in November 2007 during the school’s Homecoming activities. By purchasing niche spaces, alumni help maintain the carillon – one of the western hemisphere’s largest collection of Dutch bells, featuring a set of fifty-nine that are played by a keyboard in the bell tower. This source of income also funds scholarships for students who play the instrument, and some of it is pegged for construction of a second floor in the edifice to provide practice space for those interested in learning the art. The bell tower housing the cremated remains of alumni is now considered to be a true memorial.
Under such circumstances as these, “resting in peace” may be amidst melodic interludes!