Updated Mon, Jul 28, 2014 11:02 am
It’s been gathering dust in storage for several years, but soon the Athens County Bicentennial Bell will be back on public display if all goes as planned.
“I think it’s the people’s bell and people ought to be able to see it and appreciate it,” County Commissioner Charlie Adkins said.
Plans are to place the bell on display on the first floor of the Athens County Courthouse. Adkins said the two other county commissioners, Lenny Eliason and Chris Chmiel, have agreed to the plan.
The bell was cast in 2002 in anticipation of Ohio’s celebration in 2003 of the the 200th anniversary of Ohio becoming a state. Bells were made in all 88 counties using a mobile foundry.
Casting of the Athens County bell was a public event that took place at the Paul Bunyan Show on the campus of Hocking College. A dozen 40-pound copper and tin ingots were used. After the bell was complete a dedication ceremony was held, and local historian Marj Stone was given the honor of ringing the bell for the first time.
Stone, who gave the dedication speech, said that school children, veterans and others also rang the bell.
“It was a big do,” she said, adding that she will be “delighted” to see the bell on display.
“It should be out,” she said.
News coverage at the time said the bell would be on display briefly at the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, before going on permanent display on the grounds of the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
However, Stone said it was never put on display at the bureau because of concern that passersby would ring it.
How the bell ended up in storage in the basement of the Athens County Courthouse annex is unclear.
Building and Grounds Supt. Charlie Brown said that years ago the bell was occasionally displayed — including at the Heritage Show and at the Athens Community Center.
The plan is to display the bell in an alcove on the ground floor of the Courthouse, although Adkins said some cleaning and painting of the area needs to be done first.
The alcove now contains a decorative set of scales that were given by the Ohio Supreme Court in tribute to Gordan Gray, who was a 4th District Court of Appeals judge from 1965 to 1977.
Adkins said the scales will be moved to the Athens County Law Library.