Nova Scotia

Bells damaged in the Halifax Explosion a century ago to be installed at city hall

The 2 bells will replace a speaker system that has been in place since the 1990s.

2 bells will replace the existing speaker system and pre-recorded chimes

The 2 bells, ready for installation, after they returned from the United States where they were inspected and prepared to be hung at city hall. (Brett Ruskin / CBC News)

Halifax will soon hear century-old sounds, thanks to a new bell system atop city hall.

Crews are expected to begin the process today to replace the existing system at city hall and install two bronze bells that predate the Halifax Explosion and were damaged in the blast.

One of the bells was likely in place at city hall during the explosion, but municipal staff and researchers can't say for sure.

Undated picture (before the Halifax Explosion) showing a bell installed at city hall. (Halifax Regional Municipality)

"Based on archival evidence, it's possible that the smaller bell could be an original city hall bell," said Klara Needler, spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The other bell's history is also unclear; it may have been installed in a church or market at one time.

Historic bells replace 90s speaker system

Since 1995, Halifax city hall's clock and bell system has marked the quarter-hours and hours thanks to recordings played over a huge speaker in the tower.

Staff say the speaker could play any music or sound they choose, but it consistently plays the Westminster chimes each day. (Brett Ruskin/CBC News)

Many residents walking past city hall were surprised to learn there aren't actually any ringing bells up in the tower.

"It will be the first time in almost 100 years that real bells will be ringing in the city hall bell tower," said Needler. 

Klara Needler, a spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality, says the bells will sound different from the existing system and offer a more traditional sound. (Brett Ruskin/CBC News)

Lifting the bells will be no easy task. They weigh 376 kilograms and 485 kilograms respectively. That's roughly the total weight of 25 to 30 full propane barbecue tanks.

New bells will keep commuters on time

City staff say the new bell system will still mark the time — sounding every 15 minutes — thanks to a new control system that operates modern clapper mechanisms inside the bells. The bells were sent to the U.S. to have the clappers installed and tested.

A new clapper installed inside one of the bells, as viewed through the slats of a wooden support palette. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Experts plan to be on site most of the day, but plan to sound the bells for the first time early in the afternoon.

A bell's-eye view of Grand Parade in downtown Halifax. New bells will be installed in this spot that predate the Halifax Explosion. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

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