Bayonne is planning to preserve a bit of local architectural history and construct a bell tower at Fitzpatrick Park.
The bells that will be used were preserved from the historic former St. Joseph’s Syriac Catholic Cathedral, which was torn down on Dec. 27, 2019. The church was built by Slovak immigrants in 1909 and served the local community throughout the late 19th, the 20th, and early 21st centuries.
“Our administration took the initiative to save the bells of St. Joseph’s Church,” Mayor James Davis said. “They will serve as a memorial to the Slovak immigrants who helped build the City of Bayonne. We look forward to installing bells from the church in a new tower that will be constructed in Fitzpatrick Park.”
Department of Public Works Director Tom Cotter preserved the bells at the direction of Davis, amid local calls to save them as demolition of the church occurred nearly two years ago. The property at 25th Street and Avenue E is currently being redeveloped into twin six-story residential buildings with 162 units, with construction nearly complete.
While the façade of the church could have been preserved through designation by the Bayonne Historical Preservation Committee, the Archdiocese of Newark declined to do so. This paved way for developers to level the area and start from scratch, demolishing the approximately 112-year-old church.
However, the city stepped in to save the bells. Additionally, the parish saved a statue of St. Joseph from outside the building.
Following the preservation of the bells, there were plans to erect a bell tower using those bells nearby the East 25th Street pedestrian bridge following renovations. However, those plans changed due to space limitations, according to Public Information Officer Joe Ryan.
A new home
While it was previously thought that the bells were approximately 90 years old, they are actually all different ages. One is from 1897 and another is from 1919. The age of the third bell was not yet known at press time. One of the bells is a former fire bell, and the other two were made for the church. Each has a different tone.
Now, instead being part of or near the pedestrian bridge, the bell tower will be constructed in the newly renovated Fitzpatrick Park. The park, which was undergoing a facelift as well as storm water management upgrades, is slated to reopen on Dec. 6.
Before construction can begin on the bell tower, a contract must first be awarded. In January of this year, the council approved a resolution authorizing the request for proposals for the restoration of bells, and the construction and installation of a bell tower.
Ryan said that the style of the bell tower will reminiscent of others scene in town squares, shopping centers, and other places of that nature.
Now, with a design in mind, the council has sent the project out to bid at it’s November meeting. The council may accept or rejects bids, if it received any, at its next meeting. The Bayonne City Council will meet again on Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers in City Hall at 630 Avenue C. The public can attend in person or remotely. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.
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