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Owego Central Fire Station bell removed, to be restored as part of Steamer House Project

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OWEGO (WBNG) -- When the Central Fire Station on North Ave in Owego was constructed in 1911, it was topped by a clock tower containing a bell donated to the Village by Dr. Sidney Wells Thompson.

After hanging from the rafters of the tower for over a century, the bell was removed Monday and lowered to the ground by crane to undergo a full restoration.

"Back in the day, that was the way you could allert volunteer firefighters that there was a fire call," said Patrick Gavin, a volunteer for both the Owego Hose Team and the Owego Fire Department.

After serving the village for decades along with the "bell of summons" on top of the Tioga County Courthouse, it's heading to the Verdin Bell Company facility in Ohio where it will be sandblasted and polished. It will then be placed atop the Village's new Steamer House, which will also house the Owego Fire Department’s 1866 Amoskeag Steam Fire Engine and 1939 Sanford Hose Truck.

"That steamer house building will have glass walls so you can have 360 degree viewing of the steam fire engine and on top of that the top of the steamer house building will have this antique fire bell," Gavin said.

Before the bell could head off to Ohio, Gavin says they had to figure out how to get it down. Hooked to a crane, it was maneuvered out of one of two louver vent openings at the top of the tower. Then it was lowered onto a waiting flatbed on Temple Street.

It was a tight fit.

"Thankfully by the grace of god it all came together and it came out," Gavin said. "The bell weighs 813 pounds, its 24 inches high and 34 inches wide and we had an inch to spare to get it out the clock vent."

For both onlookers and local officials, the move will help preserve something that residents hold dear, and that is the village's history.

"Its important to preserve it's history, we're lucky to have the hose team stepping up to preserve the bell," said Village Mayor Mike Baratta.

Jim Mead of Owego said that while it would be nice if the bell could have been made functional while still in place, he's happy to see it being given the attention he feels it deserves after serving the village for decades.

"To bring it down, do a restoration and have it closer to the people i think is a very good idea," he said.

Gavin says once it's restored, it will return to service in a sense.

"Another thing this bell did was during the day it chimed on the hour to let people know what time it was," he said. "So once we install it on the steamer house building, the bell will once again chime on the hour which will be unique to downtown Owego."

The hose team hopes to begin construction on the Steamer House later this year if they are able to raise enough money. They say the house itself will cost $50,000 and the bell project an additional $20,000. All funds are being raised privately by the hose team.

To help offset additional costs for the bell, the Hose Team is selling “Doc ‘T’ Preferred” bell stock as a nod to Dr. Thompson. It can be purchased on the Hose Team website at www.OwegoHoseTeams.com.  All contributions are tax deductible as the Hose Team is a recognized 501c3 Not for Profit organization.

Jack Arpey

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