Ottawa

ByWard Market bell rings out again

After 25 years of silence, an old bell in Ottawa's ByWard Market rang once again Monday morning to announce the market is open for the season. It will continue ringing each morning.

Bell silenced in early 1990s, and no one knows why

Ottawa Markets executive director Jeff Darwin rings the ByWard Market bell on Monday, after it sat in silence for years. It will now peal every day at 9 a.m. ET, and anyone can sign up to ring it. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

After 25 years of silence, an old bell in Ottawa's ByWard Market rang once again Monday morning to let everyone know the market is open for the season.

From now on, it will continue to ring each morning at 9 a.m.

The 141-year-old bell, which weighs 180 kilograms, was cast in 1877 in West Troy, N.Y., and was installed in Ottawa's fourth iteration of the market, where it sounded the market's opening and closing every day.

"The people around here didn't have the communications we have today, and they had to know when it was time to work and open their stalls," Ottawa Markets executive director Jeff Darwin told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning in an interview Monday before a ceremony to ring the bell.

The bell was salvaged from an old market building after a fire in 1926. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Bell survived 1926 fire

In 1926 the market building was destroyed in a fire, but the bell was salvaged and housed for many years in a church at the corner of Crichton and Charles streets in New Edinburgh. In the 1970s the then Mormon church was sold to Brian Northgrave, who donated the bell to the City of Ottawa in 1976.

The bell was installed in the new ByWard Market building (its fifth iteration) and was used to signal the opening and closing of the market for years.

But at some point in the early 1990s the bell was silenced, and no one seems to remember why.

Then, in January this year, Ottawa historian and artist Andrew King noticed the bell and asked Mayor Jim Watson if it could be made to ring again.

'I want everyone to ring it'

Darwin agreed. It took a while to find a structural engineer who knew about large bells, but an assessment was eventually performed and some refurbishment done.

"We had it inspected, it's insured, we've got a new rope on it, and a structural engineer tells us it should ring fine," Darwin said Monday.

The bell will now sound every morning at 9 a.m. ET, and anyone can have a try.

"I want everyone to ring it. This is an opportunity for anyone off the street. Check with the front counter, tell us you want to ring it, what day you can come back, and you'll ring the bell and sign our new register," Darwin said.

A plaque next to the bell tells its story. Watson, King, Darwin and Coun. Jeff Leiper were among those who attended the ceremony Monday morning.

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning