Bayonne to hold ceremony commemorating new bell and clock tower

Using the bells from the former St. Joseph's Syriac Catholic Cathedral, the tower sits at the corner of 27th Street and Avenue C

Mayor James Davis has announced that the City of Bayonne will hold a ceremony for the new bell and clock tower at Fitzpatrick Park on Thursday, December 1, at 5:30 p.m., at 27th Street and Avenue C.

The bell tower’s location, Fitzpatrick Park, is named after former Mayor Francis G. Fitzpatrick Park who served as Bayonne’s leader from 1962 to 1974.

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The thirty-five-foot tower is the new home for three bells that used to ring at the former St. Joseph’s Church of Bayonne.

Davis said, “This ceremony will celebrate the preservation of the bells of St. Joseph’s Church at their new location.”

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.

A clock with four faces, one on each side, is a prominent feature of the tower. The bells are mounted inside the tower.

They are active bells, capable of making sounds along with music or tolling for the hour. The bells can be programmed to ring at specific times.

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.

As Public Works Director Tom Cotter previously explained, “We will have a clock tower with all the bells and whistles.”

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.

Following that, the bell tower arrived on or around October 5 from the Verdin Bell Company in Ohio where the bells were polished, refurbished, and retoned. The ceremony, which had been originally set for October 11, was rescheduled due to the need for electrical testing of the tower.

“I am very proud that our Administration saved the bells of St. Joseph’s Church for future generations of residents to enjoy,” Davis has 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.”

St. Joseph’s was demolished after a re-consolidation plan moved services to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish. Photo by Victor M. Rodriguez.

Preserving the city’s history

The tower utilizes 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 has been 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. And now that it has been erected, the bell and clock tower 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 disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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