As far as former Sharon Mayor Bob Price was concerned, the city’s bell returned Tuesday to the only place it ever belonged.
“It should come back to the fire house because it was a fire department bell,” former he said. “This should be the final place it is, because this is where the history started. Right here.”
And it is now proudly displayed right there – in front of Sharon’s fire house between two brick pillars under a sign that reads, “Sharon Fire Department, 1876.”
Sharon Firefighter Paul McSherry outlined the history of the bell, including its previous resting place.
“It was moved to the city garage where it sat next to a pallet of rock salt and had debris strewn all about it,” McSherry said. “It was at this time that the firefighters realized if something wasn’t done, we would lose a part of history.”
The fire department is still soliciting donations to cover the restoration cost, $5,400. McSherry said the fund drive has raised $3,000.
“Anybody that’s interested in helping us preserve this history,” McSherry said. “My union has been really good at supporting this financially, so we’re hoping we recoup a little more money.”
Sharon, then a borough, purchased the bell in 1876 from A. Fulton and Sons’ Bell Foundry in Pittsburgh. For 90 years, the bell remained in the belfry of the former municipal building on Chestnut Avenue. At one point, residents worried that the aging city hall tower could no longer support the bell’s weight, so they moved it to Bicentennial Park, which opened in 1976 along the Shenango River.
A slightly smaller replica of the Liberty Bell, Sharon’s bell was mounted on a tower built out of beams from the demolished South Water Avenue Elementary School, which was once the city’s high school. The school was torn down during an urban renewal project in the early 1970s.
The bell was relocated to the southwest corner of West State Street and South Water Avenue as part of a streetscape project in January 1983.
One of the bell’s functions was summoning volunteers to fight fires, which is why it is so meaningful to the members of Local 417, the Sharon Uniformed Firemen Union.
The firemen worked for more than a year on the logistics associated with restoring the city’s bell with a professional restoration and supports that showcase it.
Bob Fiscus, city manager and fire chief, said the fire culture is ever-changing and firefighters always must adapt to new standards and new expectations.
“It’s easy to get caught up in looking forward,” Fiscus said. “But I think it’s important also to reflect on the past. And I look at the bell as a symbol of that. A symbol of all the hard work of the past firefighters.”
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