North Carolina Courthouse Bell Project Preserves History

By Lisa Kopochinski

HYDE COUNTY, N.C.—Construction continues on a project that will preserve a small piece of North Carolina’s history—a 100-year-old cast iron bell that first hung outside the courthouse nearly a century ago.

In early September, construction on the Hyde County Courthouse Bell Project began in the county seat of Swan Quarter. The general contractor on the project is Gilbert Everett Builders of Bath, North Carolina.

The idea for this project dates back to the 1990s when two women—Pam Sawyer and Merita Spencer—who both worked for the Hyde County Register of Deeds Office, discovered the dusty bell in the humid courthouse attic where it had been stored for decades. The two women carried the bell down to their office where it remained until 2007.

According to the Washington Daily News newspaper, it was not until then that the bell was moved next door to an office in the Hyde Government Center, waiting for the right organization to head up fundraising efforts to resurrect and display the antique bell.

Finally, in April 2018, the Swan Quarter Volunteer Fire Department launched the $16,000 project when their members voted to take it on as a community project. Plans were drawn up for a small landscaped park in the greenway between the old and new courthouses, with the bell to be permanently displayed in the center in a covered brick structure. The project was approved by the Hyde Country Board of Commissioners and fundraising efforts began.

“The Courthouse was among the buildings, seen from the windows of my school bus, that birthed my interest in architecture,” said Hyde County native Ben Cahoon, of Cahoon & Kasten Architects, which provided design services free of charge.

“So, as the only architect to come from this place, I owe the historic heritage that remains a debt of gratitude,” he told the Washington Daily News. “When I have opportunities, like the bell, I will do what I can to honor our history.”

Swan Quarter Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jeffrey Stotesberry said he is pleased with the fundraising efforts to date. Donations can be sent to the SQVFD at PO Box 97, Swanquarter, North Carolina, 27885.

“We have had at least eight different events in the past 16 months and literally hundreds of direct donations—big and small—from all of our supporters who love Hyde County, its history and people for one reason or another.”

An additional feature of the project will be a time capsule that will be sealed inside the bell display to be opened in 2069.

A completion date for the project has not yet been announced.

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