The firehouse bell tower in Burlington, Vermont – an iconic part of the local cityscape. The bell tower was restored in 2002 and its bell, after over 50 years in storage at Shelburne Museum, was ceremoniously hoisted back into the tower. However, the bell still does not ring.


The Firehouse Bell Project

When and Where:

User Required
April 12, 2013 – May 18, 2013
Burlington City Arts Gallery, Burlington, Vermont


Bells were once necessary to summon the public all at once, all together, all in one place. Their sounds are deeply woven into the cultural fabric and unique soundscapes of cities and towns worldwide. Civic bells are constant; they mark time through personal stories and shared histories that unite a public’s past and present. Despite extraordinary and rapid advances in communication technology, do we perhaps still have a basic desire to hear bells ring into the future?


The Installation Experience

Voting for the future of the Firehouse Bell in Burlington, Vermont

The Firehouse Bell Project was on view at Burlington City Arts as part of the exhibition User Required in April and May of 2013. The installation posed two questions: Do you think The Firehouse Bell should ring again and if so why should it ring? The installation included video from the foundry where the bell was made, the bell’s original striker that we found in the bell tower.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to view a video of the installation.


Once an essential communication technology for the City of Burlington, is the firehouse bell just a decoration or does an inspired contemporary purpose await its ring?

Do you think The Firehouse Bell should ring again?
Yes Votes = 464
No Votes = 68

The following suggestions were submitted in response to the question: Do you think The Firehouse Bell should ring again and if so why should it ring?

When there is an opening, ring the bell.

It will inspire people to write poems!!

It should ring every time a new baby is born in Burlington.

Ring the bell on the morning of a voting day as a reminder to vote!

Ring the bell when there is an event at City Hall Park (lets local citizen know if they hadn’t heard/read about it yet)

Ring the bell for celebratory reasons and associate it with announcement on City Hall website. Call it “Why the bell Rings” or something like that.

Bring back the fire pole.

Have the bell travel around announcing a sort of art-mobile. Could start with First Friday Art Shuttle then could take mobile exhibits/displays to schools or randomly around towns, county, state. One farmers market, summervale, waterfront – partner w/Shelburne Museum, Fleming, etc. Bring art to those who wouldn’t otherwise travel to it. Alternate fuel of course,. Bike/Solar etc.

Voting buttons for The Firehouse Bell Project

To celebrate community!

Have it ring at high and low tide.

Have water mist around the bell and ring it when the sun is in position to make a rainbow. 

Ring the firehouse bell! Brings back a sense of history and reminds us how we could still exist without technology.

I think the bell should be able to ring because the bell would ring for special occasions like Christmas, Valentines Day, etc.

I think the bell should ring again because it could be used for events.

The bell RINGING AND BECKONING a community to come together CELEBRATES our accomplishments, ties US TO OUR PAST, resonates for FUTURE GENERATIONS

It rings every time someone falls in love.

The bell should ring every time someone gives any amount of money to a homeless individual in Burlington and texts/tweets the message to a server at the BCA.

What else is a bell good for? Paperweight.

A historic bell has one primary auditory purpose. It must ring! The real issue is when/what purpose?

Aka it may be like a doom bell.

Apocalypse or when warning when all else fails.

The bell must ring for a good reason.

I love the bell.

It should ring according to the moon cycle

It should ring if there is an emergency.

It should ring on holidays and special events.

KEEP IT. Just because it no longer serves the technological, communication purpose it once had is no reason to render it silent. W’er humans aren’t we? WE ASSIGN MEANING TO EVERYTHING. (even the meaningless). We can figure out a new meaning and reason for the bell’s dulcet, brassy tones.

Ring it. It makes us happy. And if it annoys anyone, it doesn’t last for very long. They’ll get over it.

The bell should ring every day at 11:11am and 3:33pm as a reminder for people to smile, enjoy life and strive for excellence. We all need a reminder.

Our communal/community history through common objects is part of who we are as a community today – let’s remember from whence we came by keeping the bell. 

The bell could be used to announce civic events, such as voting day, and rung throughout the day to capture (demand) attention and action.

Function and decoration. Best of both worlds, dingaling, abing bong.

Just ring that damn bell!

The bell should be rung every time a new Burlington baby is born!

It should ring when a bill is passed in Vermont to keep the public engaged and informed regarding new legislation.

Find a way to make music with different beats, different types – for other to accompany.

Every time a baby is born! It would bring a sense of being alive. It should be rung every weekend and when people are celebrating the city!

The firehouse bell is a great reminder of how technology has changed over time. The bell is cumbersome weight has been replaced by lighter more concise technology. 

At the equinox and solstice and other astral events. 

The bell could be used to celebrate and announce community events, such as the Farmer’s Market, First Fridays, Art Hop, Festival of Fools, The Giant Pumpkin Regatta, voting days, First Night, Fourth of July , the last day of school and other special occasions. 

This bell is destined to be used in a contemporary statue that rings at meaningful times. The statue should represent Burlington in all its glory. Or be a pterodactyl. Actually, just make it a pterodactyl. 

It would be really cool to see temporary artwork created with the bell that would be audience-controlled. 

Art can be anything. You just have to find a place to put it. Thank you.

Town Meeting Day

It could symbolize thanks and gratitude when something special happened: New baby born, War ended (maybe more than one ring!), Countless other things!

The bell should be kept to help preserve the building’s exterior historicity.  It should be operable for auspicious occasions, but otherwise preserved as is.

Every time the bell rang it would symbolize God telling us someone did the right thing and it would be God’s form of giving thanks.

Yes! Upcycle! New use for historic artifacts!

Ring the bell exactly one week after a Burlington resident has a baby. Maybe Morse Code the name.

Bells are part of our life. They make us aware of how time moves by. Sacred, honorable, event, move on, take notice, Keep us in step.

Every time a child is born.

Use also some light (lights and sound). 

Utiliser de l’électronique!

I imagine the bell being used for different purposes than the City Hall Bell – such as to announce the opening of a new show!

The &#$! Are you talking about? Just live your life man.

Every time a new business comes to Burlington Vermont!

As evidence of our past communications, stories and history it should have a place.

When there is a big event.

If the bell coincided with the bus schedule…maybe the 1 (that’s the line I most frequently ride), it would be rally helpful for me!

It’s magical.

I love you.

I bet it used to ring and it just takes up power and doesn’t do it anymore. 

Ring every time someone is born (or dies?)

How about allowing views form the top. Ringing on special occasions and/or each Noon.

Soundez justice! Maitenant! S’il vous plaisez!

To ring off city wide “fun days” – beautiful weather days when city employees and (anyone else too!) get the day off. 

It should ring again so that people do not forget what a real bell sounds like. Everyone is now so programmed by all sorts of personalized ringtones on their cell phones that the sound of a real actual bell actually now sounds unusual. 

Making a German coo-coo clock-esque animatronic flying monkey that hammers the bell.

Everytime the mayor tweets, the bell shall ring!

Yes! It’s history and should ring again. Technology doesn’t need to replace everything “old fashioned”!

On the first day of school.

Used for weddings.

It should be replaced with a bubble machine.

Announce begin and end of Art Hop.

Ring at 5:00pm every Friday marking the start of the weekend – “The start of the end”

Ring based on light/dark rather than the exact time of day.

Use public news sources and measure frequency of words like “celebrate” to determine when to ring, only ringing when “celebrate” reaches an extraordinary frequency.

It should warn if zombies attack, have regular Zombie drills (Once a month @ random)

Burlington needs its “symphonies carillon” such as Montreal has its “symphonies portvaires” every year…I’ll come every year for that!

Maybe to commemorate moments in Burlington Vermont history or to open events…the bell could ring!

When it rings 1000 times the aliens will invade the Earth.

Ring at local (high) noon each day – a time different than 12:00 (and I believe a bit different each day).

Please don’t record the sound of the bell and then play the recording rather than ring the bell.

Ring the bell every time an animal is adopted from the CC Humane Society.

“Ring the Bell” Create an online capacity for citizens to celebrate achievement by ringing the bell, with LED screen describing their event, but also just people hearing it and knowing that someone’s smiling.

All cultures depend on shared ritual, knowledge, experience, and play. Perhaps the bell can ring to provoke a valued, community action, such as dance, hugging, recycling, sleeping, exercising, etc. that can be practiced as a community.

The installation included voting ballets, voting boxes, access to a website that held Karson’s research, video of a similar bell being made at the Meneely Bell Company, the striker from the bell and an architectural drawing of the Firehouse and its bell tower. Video by Steve Seremeth.

This installation was included in Critical Making Montreal.