Sloss Furnaces Marks Alabama’s Bicentennial with the Children’s Bell

Andrew Yeager, WBHM

Industrialization is a major part of Alabama’s history and perhaps the most visible reminder of that in Birmingham is Sloss Furnaces. The historic site is marking state’s bicentennial this month with an object in line with that past of iron and steel: the Alabama Bicentennial Children’s Bell.

Metal workers are putting the final touches on it, and next week they will install the bell and a bell tower in the pond near the entrance to the visitors center. Sloss Furnaces’ metal arts director Marshall Christie says it took a lot a research to make sure they got the acoustics right. They created a mold and about two weeks ago, they fired up the furnace.

“[It] is always impressive,” Christie says. “There’s an 8-foot flame coming out of the top of it. Sparks shooting out of every orifice it has. And a whole crew scurrying around working the furnace and manning it.”

He says the process of pouring the metal takes about two minutes. After that, it’s 24 hours nervously waiting to see if it worked. In this case, it did. The bell, made of iron from Alabama, is about two feet in diameter and 375 pounds.  Christie says they also measured the bell with a guitar tuner and “a very solid E is our note.”

Part of a bicentennial is about the past, but this bell is about the future and the children who will inhabit it. That message rings out just looking at it. Across the bottom of the bell it reads “Leave it Better.”

The bell is a project of the state’s bicentennial commission and Children’s of Alabama. Both are program sponsors on WBHM. However, our news and business departments operate independently.

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