Marble’s fire bell tower to rise again |

Marble’s fire bell tower to rise again

Lynn Burton

Some good-natured trash talk ensued during the dedication ceremony for the Marble fire bell tower in May 1912, according to Marble Historical Society President Tom Williams.

Williams said New York City’s fire commissioner was in Marble at that time. “He was probably an investor in the quarry,” Williams said.

When quarry manager Channing Meek took the stage to address the crowd, he couldn’t resist giving the commissioner a bit of a ribbing, and upholding the Marble boys’ honor. Quoting from the book “Marble: A Town Built on Dreams,” Williams said Meek told the crowd he “dares to say Marble’s fire fighters are every bit as good as those Dutch boys in Manhattan.”

It’s hard to tell whether any New York City firefighters will be in Marble this fall, but a second fire bell tower dedication isn’t far away. Williams said the historical society is reconstructing the 65-foot tower, which toppled over in 1977, and the three- to four-week project is slated to start this month.

The society hired architect Brad Larson and engineer Craig Ohlson to design and build the tower so it closely resembles the original one. Williams said Carbondale residents Jake and Susan Schloesser found some 70-year-old timbers in Denver, which are being milled to the same dimensions as the original materials. The joints to join the cross timbers with the support timbers will be the same as the original. Modern bolts, which are less expensive and last longer than the original ones, are just about the only present-day materials that will be used.

“The tower will be as true to the original as we can make it,” Williams said.

The tower stood near Carbonate Creek, and is a prominent landmark in many old photographs of Marble. Williams said the bell rang different signals, depending on which part of town was on fire, “so the firefighters would know where to go,” Williams said.

The tower’s long, slow decline paralleled other structures’ fates in Marble. Williams said one of the floods in the 1940s covered the tower’s bottom section in mud. The base of the wooden tower probably started to rot, and high winds in November 1977 knocked it down.

The tower’s 1,000-pound bell was broken to pieces in the fall. Williams said all the pieces except the top one have been found. They will be welded together, and the bell put on display at the tower’s base.

The tower will be located about a block from its original location, because Carbonate Creek shifted its course through the years. Marble foundation blocks, donated by Sierra Minerals, which operates the historic Colorado Yule marble quarry, have already been set in cement.

The fire bell tower is the latest project the historical society has had a hand in. In July, the historical society helped dedicate the historic Marble bank building, which has been restored and is now used for the Town Hall.

The historical society is working on a master plan for a park and other restoration efforts at the marble mill site along the Crystal River. Williams said the society also has its eye on the former town hall building, which was originally the residence of Dr. A.A. Swift.

“If it’s restored, it could be used by the school … for an information center, or any number of things,” Williams said.

To fund the $25,000 fire bell tower project, the historical society solicited donations, and held several fund-raisers. The fund-raiser that has Marble folks talking is a raffle for a marble bench built by Gary Bascom.

“It’s a gorgeous bench,” William said.

Raffle tickets are $10, and are available through Ute Meadows Inn Bed and Breakfast.

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