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100 years of song

July 20, 2015

What every Buckeye should know about the Orton Hall Chimes on their 100th anniversary.

Their sound has been synonymous with the Oval for a century.

The Orton Hall Chimes have played for generations of Buckeyes on their journey to classes, library study sessions and, eventually, commencement. Their familiar clanging also is a welcome greeting for alumni returning home.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the chimes’ arrival on campus in 1915, a new ringtone is available for download. Listen to it, and learn more about the history of the Orton Hall Chimes: 

  • Supported by class gifts: The first 10 chimes, in a key of D flat, were purchased by the classes of 1906-1914 at a cost of $8,000. Two additional chimes – a G sharp and A sharp – were added in 2003.

    Gifts from the classes of 1919 and 1920 covered the cost of electric strikers added later to mark the hours and quarter hours.
  • 25,000 pounds of awesome: Individually, the chimes vary in weight between 550 and 3,500 pounds.
  • Produced in Baltimore: The McShane Bell Foundry Co., founded in 1856 and still in business today, manufactured the bells and delivered them to campus on Feb. 11, 1915.
A 1914 contract with McShane Bell Foundry specifies what keys the chimes would be.
The Class of 1911 was among eight graduating classes to cover the cost of the chimes.
A crowd gathers outside Orton Hall for the chimes dedication in 1915.
Twelve women made up the first Chimes Junior Class Honorary Society in 1918.
The Chimes Junior Class Honorary pin.
Allen McManigal uses original wooden levers to play the chimes.
The levers still remain up in the bell tower.
Donna Knisley, an Orton Hall bell ringer, poses in August 2003 and again in April 2007.
One of two new bells is moved into place in 2003.
These clay roof tiles from Orton Hall are stamped 1908.
  • Big debut: The chimes were first played by W.H. Metee, chimer of the Christ Church in Baltimore, on Feb. 22, 1915 – George Washington’s birthday. Legislators were brought by car from downtown Columbus to campus to listen with students and alumni as the chimes played "America," "Auld Lang Syne" and "Carmen Ohio." Attendees were  given “bouquets for their buttonholes” and cherry pie to mark the occasion.
  • Inspiring students in service: Chimes Junior Class Honorary was established in 1918, and its founders settled on the timeless name when they heard the sweet song of the Orton Hall Chimes ringing in the distance during an organizational meeting. The honorary recognizes female students for their scholarship, leadership and service and became a national organization in 1948.
  • Guarded by gargoyles: Circling the bell tower where the chimes are housed are sculptures depicting the heads of extinct prehistoric animals. Gargoyles divert rain away from buildings and typically are modeled after mythical creatures. 
  • Change in play: Originally, the chimes’ lever system required manual play in the bell tower. Today, they are set to play Westminster Chimes automatically on the quarter hour and Carmen Ohio occasionally. But you can request other songs be played for special occasions on the keyboard, which was installed in 1987.