Memorial Building cupola to sing once again

Series: Hinsdale 150 | Story 39

Longtime residents might remember a time when the skies over downtown Hinsdale were filled with melody and when the clock that sits atop the Memorial Building rang out to signal the top of each hour.

"I remember it as young person, hearing the bell ring and listening to the music," said Cynthia Curry, one of a trio of Hinsdale residents who months ago took it upon themselves to see if the bell, clock and carillon could be restored.

Their work paid off Sept. 5 when the Hinsdale Village Board voted to hire three companies whose combined work will result in a fully functional, fully modern bell, clock and carillon in the cupola over the Memorial Building. Digital upgrades of the carillon and bell will allow village staff to operate the system from their phones, and a digital upgrade to the clock will ensure that it keeps proper time. The clock's hands, face and dials also will be cleaned.

"We've been around forever, and we just really wanted to see this happen," said Scott Moore, who worked with Curry and Julie Crnovich to see the project through. Because all three also work together on the Hinsdale Plan Commission, they were careful to always meet in pairs, so as not to break any rules or draw any speculation that their work was anything other than a passion project by three local residents.

"There's a lot of options that this unit is going to be able to do," said Jim Piontkowski, building maintenance supervisor.

The carillon will be capable of playing just about any song and can even be used to broadcast public announcements. Piontkowski said he imagines carols playing as downtown shoppers hunt for holiday gifts and patriotic tunes on the Fourth of July.

Piontkowski said programming the carillon was part of his job in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. The original system was gifted to the village in recognition of its centennial, but it began malfunctioning a few decades later. People complained when music and chimes began playing at random times. Deemed unrepairable, the system was shut down in the early 2000s.

Piontkowski said the speakers for the restored system will be pointed south, to minimize any disturbance to neighbors and to direct the sound toward Burlington Park and the downtown. He expects equipment to be delivered in the next few weeks, keeping the project on track for a Dec. 1 debut - in time for the Christmas Walk.

"It just makes the whole village feel warmer and more welcoming," said Moore, who remembers hearing the bells as a student at Hinsdale Junior High School.

Moore said there's something about the gong of the bell that makes people stop and take notice.

"It slows time down a little bit," he said.

A self-described history buff, Crnovich said she is thrilled about the return of music and bells to downtown.

"It gives to the small-town character of our village," she said.

Like the Memorial Building itself, which was built as tribute to Hinsdale's veterans, Crnovich said this project is a fitting way to mark the village's 150th birthday.

"This will be a lasting tribute," she said.

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean