HC Media Raises New Christmas Bell Saturday in Washington Square

The new bell, as it appeared during the recent VFW Santa Parade.

The original Washington Square bell.

The original Washington Square bell.

For many years, a large bell hung over Washington Square to help Haverhill residents celebrate the Christmas season. Tomorrow, HC Media hopes to ring in a new tradition with installation of a new bell.

The first Bell Lighting Ceremony takes place at 4:45 p.m., Saturday, in Washington Square. The new bell made its first public appearance on HC Media’s float during the recent 51st Annual Lorraine Post 29 VFW Santa Parade. Lindsay C. Paris, HC Media’s community news producer, organized the project.

“I produce the show, Haverhill Journal. I did a story last year about the old bell. I’m not the only one to ask what happened to the bell? We all wondered about putting up a new one. How difficult would it be?” Paris said. In the end, however, she said the evolution in building and safety codes made the project far more complicated. In fact, because of those changes, the new bell will hang at the entrance to Washington Street—between the former Haverhill Music Center and Casa Blanca Mexican Restaurant—rather than the center of Washington Square.

Paris asked Stephen Palmer, metal fabrication instructor at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School to replicate the bell. She was surprised to learn his former Haverhill Trade School instructor, Mr. Campana, actually constructed the original at the school in 1949. Palmer went on to consult Campana to make sure the replacement would match the original in terms of size and shape.

Lindsay C. Paris, HC Media’s community news producer.

Lindsay C. Paris, HC Media’s community news producer.

When the new bell emerged from the shop at Whittier, HC Media staff primed it and Paris and Creative Haverhill’s Jenny Arndt painted it. There was still another step if the original tradition was to be honored. The original bell was equipped with a horn speaker and played Christmas carols piped in from the nearby Haverhill Hardware, she said. Now, music will be played over a modern speaker inside the bell and received via the Internet from HC Media’s Elm Street studios.

Whittier Vo-Tech donated the bell, but the expansive structure to hang it, decorations and other materials will be paid by HC Media, Paris said. Two parking spaces, on each side of Washington Street, will be used to anchor the new steel structure holding the bell. Paris thanked Haverhill’s public works department and Mayor James J. Fiorentini for their assistance.

“It was more challenging than I was expecting. Whittier was cooperative, the city was cooperative and the mayor expedited things. In the 21st century, you can’t do anything the way it used to be. But, it was worth it to see the response from the community,” Paris said.

The original bell hung in Washington Square between 1949 and 1982. HC Media operates Haverhill’s public access, government and education channels on Comcast.