Concerns about noise from future night games at the Hunnewell Track & Field complex and from the current rapid fire pop of pickleballs near homes have generated their fair share of controversy in Wellesley. Now enter the hourly ringing of the bell at the nearly 100-year-old Sprague Memorial Clock Tower at Elm Park in Wellesley Hills as the latest sound to spark a complaint.
The Natural Resources Commission this past week (shortly before the 50-minute mark of the Wellesley Media recording) discussed a neighbor’s complaint about the bell, which rings every hour from 9am-6pm daily. It had been ringing hourly from 7am-9pm before the resident raised the issue over the winter, and the resident’s request was to limit the ringing to once per day, according to NRC Director Brandon Schmitt. There was some murkiness around who actually defines the schedule, though it was determined that the bell controls have limitations that allow for hourly ringing but not for say, ringing every 3 hours.
The Sprague Memorial Clock Tower bell sound is classic, striking, and loud. The clock and bell were given to the “the town of Needham for the village of Grantville” initially in 1874 by resident John W. Shaw for a schoolhouse bearing his name that stood at the intersection of Forest and Washington Streets. The clock and bell later made their way to the tower, designed by architect Benjamin Proctor, Jr., and completed in 1928 (per Josh Dorin, who wrote on the subject for a 2016 Wellesley Townsman article).
“[T]he bell used to chime every hour, even throughout the night. This feature didn’t last long. Numerous residents complained — primarily the newer residents of town, as the old-timers were comforted by the familiar tones made by the striking of the bell,” Dorin wrote.
I swung by the park over the weekend to record the sound, which I’ll admit—even though I knew it was coming—made me jump as I pressed play on my iPhone to capture the bell marking 1pm with 1 bold note.
The bell had been been out of commission for some time until last summer/fall when it returned to action after the bell hammer was rehabbed and other old hardware was replaced.
We had the good fortune of a DPW-led tour inside the clock tower back in 2013—the bell wasn’t working then (see “Wellesley exclusive: Inside the Sprague Memorial Clock Tower”).
The town has slowly been making repairs to the woodwork around the top of the bell tower as well as to the staircase leading up to it, with plans to bring in a contractor for copper roof repairs and additional renovation, Park and Highway Superintendent Mike Quinn told us.
The Department of Public Works made a request in 2017 for Community Preservation Act funding for work on the clock tower, which along with the park, is on the National Register of Historic Places. In that Community Preservation Committee (CPC) request, it is stated that “the keeping of time and hourly ringing of the bells provide a tangible connection to a significant historic tradition in town…”
A line item for FY25 within the DPW portion of the 5-year capital budget shows $525K (with the CPC as the funding source) for clock tower work that goes beyond the initial consultant estimates. Look for spending on some design and scope of work in the upcoming year, with the actual rehab taking place in FY25.
“At this time I’m not inclined to change the schedule of the clock tower bell, but I could recommend that we would look at better controls when we redo the entire building in 2025,” the NRC’s Jay McHale said during the recent commission meeting.
The other commissioners agreed.
Sound is a subject that’s been on the minds of NRC members, and in fact we asked about sound during our pre-election interviews with NRC candidates earlier this year. The NRC has been conducting research on sound, and plans to work with the School Committee to come up with a consistent sound policy for NRC and School fields.
Barton prives says
This town becomes kookier the longer I live here it’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s too noisy. It’s too quiet.😂😂
this is what happens when you raise people in a sterile silent joyless environment. you get sterile silent joyless people
Deanna Ustas says
Please don’t remove that tower Wellesley is already changing so you don’t recognize it!
I grew I
Up there ‘ it was a great small town
Bob Brown says
Rest assured, no plans to remove the tower
Mary Ann Cluggish says
I think the Clock Tower bell sounds wonderful!!
I agree. I love the sound of the bell. Please don’t stop ringing it. It would be like moving next door to a school playground and saying don’t let the kids play outside they make to much noise.
Elizabeth Quinn says
Were the neighbor who complained about the bell chimes to move next to a church, would they complain about the Sunday traffic, too? Must we entertain and ultimately yield to all complainers?
Steve Sykes says
OMG!!! Precious NIMBY neighbors! (Not In My Backyard) This is similar to complaints from people who live near an airport and complain about the noise!!! Do they really expect quiet!
If you don’t like the noise from the clocktower, don’t buy a house near the clocktower!
I lived in Wellesley for 66 years it’s a Town landmark!
When I was a kid and complained about something my Father would say “i bet you kick when you’re in swimming!” Complainer!
Mary Bowers says
The ringing of the clock tower bell, doesn’t compare with what will happen if/when lights go into the fields at the high school!
Wellesley Resident says
What will happen? What, bring joy and liveliness to our youth and community? Or shall we shut down and not allow any and all community activities that may upset a select few? If quiet is what someone wants, they should be living in the woods with animals only. Not in a community with parks, schools, fields, children, laughter, conversation, music. This is what makes up the heart of a community. And don’t we want our community to thrive? Other towns have weekend concerts, food truck events, ice cream socials, local weekend markets etc. That builds community. Why do you think there is a decline in families coming here with kids? Probably because other communities can and will offer so much more fun, community, and family friendly lives. Take care of youth and they’ll take care of us or else there will be nothing left except miserable people here. Trending that way too quickly. Pretty sad and pathetic.
Jason Connelly says
How is Marty going to get home in the Delorean without that clock tower? For the sake of the universe Marty needs to get home!!! Doc is stringing a cable from the tower to Quebrada.
I agree that people are getting kookier or just plain selfish & nasty. Let the bells ring and the games go on!
People who don’t like these things MOVE AWAY!! Clock & fields were probably here before they moved in.
I grew up in Wellesley and at 90
years old I find the woman’s complaint about the clock tower ‘s bell ringing ridiculous. . It is a special historical fixture of Wellesley Hills Square and should not be silenced. People who want to live in a soundless cocoon should have researched their prospective surroundings before buying a house nearby a bell tower
Please leave one of the last vestiges of our town history alone. It is comforting to
hear., especially over all the horrendous noise that now goes on in WH Square all day.
It’s a lovely sound and considering the hours I’m not sure who is disturbs ? The Wellesley Fire Station is close by … shall we silence them too ?
Enjoy the quaint sounds of this historic bell tower!!