This One Rings a Bell (2)

I realized the other day that a bell tower is not something one comes across too often in North America, and while I could think of a couple of examples of the top, I was curious to find out how many shōrō there might be out there. It is interesting to see what company the tower I will design and build might keep.

The first bell tower that came to my mind is the Korean Friendship bell in San Pedro near L.A. California. I know this one rather well as I have stayed at the youth hostel just above it on the hill on a couple of occasions. I think this Korean structure is by far the most grand example of a bell tower in North America:

It’s worth another picture:

Please click on the above two photos and you will see they are large files with more detail to be seen.

This tower is of the same basic type as found at Tōdaiji in Nara Japan, in that is is open on all sides and has the flanking posts, but the structural details are different in numerous respects to the one in Nara. None of the posts are splayed and it has very deep eaves in relation to the base, the eaves having a pronounced curve. It employs the classic Chinese pattern of round base rafters surmounted by rectilinear flying rafters, both tiers fanned. We’ll compare Chinese and Japanese approaches to fan rafters in a future post.

The other example which came readily to mind was the bell tower at the University of British Columbia in Canada. This is one that I have never seen in person though I have lived not too far from it on several occasions:

A winter shot of the same tower:

The tower looks a bit over-sized for the bell to my eyes, but I like the structural design with the boat-shaped bracket arms, funa-hijiki, along with arched upper support beam, and the minimal carving.

Another tower which I had seen a picture of and have not visited is in Duluth Minnesota. It is the Ohara Bell:

Curiously, the nuki, or penetrating tie beams, have been oriented plumb when they are normally placed in slope with the splayed posts. The rafter spacing is also a bit out of whack – observe the rhythm of the rafter tips and see how it is too crowded an interval next to the hip rafter. I suspect this tower was not built by a Japanese carpenter or by someone especially familiar with Japanese carpentry, though it looks tidy overall. The hipped roof is a less common roof form for these towers.

The bell in the Duluth tower is a replica of one with an intriguing story behind it, and is the subject of a 2008 film. The trailer on that site is worth a view.

At the United Nations in NY there is a beautiful shōrō, called the Japanese Peace Bell and installed in 1954:

The post splay is more pronounced on this one than on most others of its type – the 4-legged or yotsu-ashi (四足) type. Another hip roofed version, with the copper shingles having achieved a lovely verdigris close to 60 years on.

In Seattle WA there is a nice bell tower with an irimoya roof, the Kobe Friendship Bell, presented to the city in 1962:

The roof is lovely, and this is of the flanking post variety, designed by an architect in Japan, not a carpenter. The posts have no splay, which is a design shortcoming in my view. The continuous granite sill is unusual. The copper shingled roof is very similar in appearance to the one I will be making. Here’s a page with some more detailed background information on this bell.

Here’s a bell tower located in Des Moines Iowa:

Called the Bell of Peace and Friendship, this bell is a 1962 gift from Des Moines sister city of Yamanishi – a return for Des Moines gift of hogs to that city some time earlier. Another interesting story there! It’s currently in need of restoration work and a funding drive is underway.

Another flanking post type of bell tower can be found in on the West Coast:

This is the ‘Bell of Dana’, a part of the Nishi-Hongwanji complex in Los Angeles. It was installed in the late 1970’s. Here’s another view of this gable roofed structure:

The posts are minimally splayed if at all, and the under eave is rather bereft of architectural detail. The corner posts are exceptionally large. It’s chunky overall.

One example of a small shōrō is located in the Montréal Botanical Garden in Quebec:

The bell was given to the city by Hiroshima in 1988. Here’s another angle:

Like the one at UBC, the structure is too large in relation to the size of the bell. it sorta has the flanking posts, though the structural system is not particularly sophisticated. A western carpentry approach to a Japanese structure for sure.

One last one – this is a bell tower located in Oakridge Tennessee:

The International Friendship Bell structure is obviously not a Japanese design at all, but the bell is from Japan, and like many of the others mentioned in this post, was a gift to the city. Yet another complex story with a lengthy chronology – quite controversial in fact, given the significance of the location in regards to WWII. Here’s a view from the side:

I’ll hold off on making comments about the architecture in this case. It’s outside my area of interest, I’ll say that.

That about covers the more notable bell towers located in North America I do believe. If I missed any that you consider significant, please let me know. I’m always interested to discover more examples.

Thanks for dropping by the Carpentry Way on your journey today. Comments always welcome.

–> on to post 3

3 Replies to “This One Rings a Bell (2)”

  1. This bell project sounds AMAZING! I'm looking forward to see the development from start to finish!

    Matt Borland

  2. Harry, thanks! This project ended up going nowhere because the client took my drawings after paying a pittance for them and had someone local do the work. At least, that's the last I heard.


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