A ceremony to dedicate a new bell tower in Fitzpatrick Park in Bayonne has been postponed, due to the need for electrical testing of the tower.
The ceremony, which had been scheduled for October 11, will be rescheduled as soon as circumstances permit. A revised dedication date will be announced, according to Mayor James Davis.
The City Council voted unanimously in January of this year to award the contract for the construction of the bell tower to Picerno-Giordano Construction of Kenilworth for $250,275, the same contractor that conducted the renovations of Fitzpatrick Park. In March, the bells were shipped off to Cincinnati, Ohio to be revitalized.
The 35 foot tower will be the new home for three bells that used to ring at the former St. Joseph’s Church. The bell tower arrived on or around October 5 from the Verdin Bell Company in Ohio where the bells were polished, refurbished, and retoned.
A fourth bell from the former church will be placed inside City Hall at a later date. Details concerning the fourth bell will be announced after arrangements have been made.
“I am very proud that our Administration saved the bells of St. Joseph’s Church for future generations of residents to enjoy,” Davis said. “They will serve as a memorial to the Slovak immigrants of St. Joseph’s Parish who helped build Bayonne in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”
Bell and clock tower en route from Ohio
The bell tower arrived in Bayonne on a truck. The tower will be lifted and put in place in Fitzpatrick Park at the corner of 27th Street and Avenue C.
A clock with four faces, one on each side, will be a prominent feature of the tower. The bells will be mounted inside the tower. They will be active bells, capable of making sounds along with music or tolling for the hour. The bells can be programmed to ring at specific times.
As Public Works Director Tom Cotter explained, “We will have a clock tower with all the bells and whistles.”
After the tower is in its new home, it will be hooked up to the electric line in the park. According to Cotter, the electricity will be tested to make sure that the clock and the bells work.
“Hopefully, within a few days after its installation, the bell tower will be ready to use,” Cotter said.
The bell tower includes a weather vane on its top. This kind of bell tower is placed frequently in town squares and shopping districts across the country.
The bell tower’s location, Fitzpatrick Park, is named after former Mayor Francis G. Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick served as Bayonne’s leader from 1962 to 1974.
The history of the decades-old bells
The tower will use bells that were saved from the former St. Joseph’s Syriac Catholic Cathedral at the corner of Avenue E and 25th Street prior to the church’s demolition. The church was built by Slovak immigrants in 1909 and served the local community throughout the late 19th, the 20th, and the early 21st centuries.
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 to construct to two six-story residential redevelopments on the site.
The bells are all different ages from around the years 1897 and 1919. One of the bells is a former fire bell, and the other two were made for the church. Each has a different and distinct tone.
The tower was slated to be built near or as part of the new under-construction 25th Street pedestrian bridge before space limitations prevented that. Now the bell and clock tower will be constructed in the newly renovated Fitzpatrick Park, which underwent a facelift as well as storm water management upgrades.
The final portion of the park was finished on Christmas Eve in 2021, with the unveiling of a police-themed playground. When it is erected, the clock and bell tower will serve as the finishing touch to Fitzpatrick Park.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.