Belfry Explorations

In connection with the renovations contemplated and soon to the undertaken by Larison’s Corner, Reverend Mark decided to venture up into the belfry with a flashlight and his trusty camera.  No telling how many years it’s been since anyone ventured up there. Amazing the strength of the beams he saw.  Here is what he found:

Up and Down

It’s dark, cold, the air smells of dust and age and I’m having an adventure in my own Church.  Deciding to make my way to the bell of the Larison’s Corner Church, in a few short steps I find myself in another world.

Climbing up the stairs leading to the belfry, I’m far from the painted and tidy walls of the Narthex and Sanctuary.  Vast beams rise into the darkness and the floor is littered with aged insulation and the dust of over a hundred years.  The only available light comes from the circular stained-glass window at the front of the Church and my flashlight. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, a vast space opens to my left, the roof over the Sanctuary.

The flashlight shows upright beams, little more than unfinished trees harvested for the purpose.  There is a noticeable absence of nails or bolts, wooden pegs hold everything together.  All the wood and beams, veterans of over a hundred summers and winters, are dark and solid.  There isn’t a failing piece visible to the eye. Across the way, a short flight of steps leads to a platform, one that ends at a long ladder reaching up into the darkness.  At the top, the flashlight shows the hatch leading to the bell.  I stick the flashlight in my pocket and my camera goes under my jacket.  I ascend.

The hatch is a problem.  Lifting up a few inches before stopping, it can shift neither left, right nor forward.  A little experimentation shows that if I lift it and slide it backwards, I can get a hole to crawl through.  Sort of.  The resulting opening is not designed for larger folks, particularly ones in heavy jackets with a camera and flashlight.  Reaching over the beams on the floor, I set the light and camera down and try the hole.  Ducking under the edge of the bell, I make it up.

The space is cramped and it is not easy to move around.  I discover the beams limiting the hatch are actually the carriage for the bell.  The bell itself is about four feet in height, that mottled green that bronze gets with age.  The foundry mark states 1869.  Given its’ age it’s in good shape.  My eye is drawn to a large, rusting war hammer-looking thing hanging from a supporting beam.  It takes me a moment to realize it’s a spare clapper.  I get some photos of the space, but I am unable to get the entire bell.  I have a wide-angle lens that would do the trick, but it’s in the camera bag a hundred or so feet below me.

Squinting through the steeple louvers, I wonder how many people think about the building that they worship in?

As to the photos I took, here they are:


This is what is over the Sanctuary.  Note the folding theater seats – I don’t know if they were originally pews or used up in the now-enclosed balcony.  This shot was taken about 1/2 way up the ladder leading to the belfry.


Inside view of Doug Weheman’s wonderful stained glass.  The bell pull rope is in the foreground.


A joist on the outer wall, taken through the steps of the belfry ladder.  I couldn’t get the lens wide enough to get the whole scene with all the beams in the picture.  The interior bracing and beams reminded me of a windjammer cargo hold.


Finally made it to the belfry, this is the very top, mainly to get a shot of those interesting boards.


The first thing that caught my eye was this huge rusty war hammer looking thing hanging on a beam; it’s a spare bell clapper.


The bell.  The belfry was cramped and not conducive to taking a long shot of the bell in its’ environ.  If/when I get up there again, I’ll bring a wide angle lens.


Part of the bell carriage.  The bronze strap running out of the picture was part of the lightening rod set-up.  The rectangular thing to the left is the hatch I had to lift up and push backward to get up there.


The ladder up to the belfry.  The photo collapses the whole thin quite nicely, the ladder was a good 15 feet tall.


Meanwhile, under the Church . . . After going up, I figured I had to go down through the trap door to see the bark covered beams supporting the floor.  There they are, bark and all. 

Thanks for sweating through my cheap travelogue.  If I get back to the belfry, I’ll take the right lenses and get the whole bell.



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