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Bell Tower from Rochester School #7, Rediscovered

November 1st, 2015

When Bill Schmidt purchased his home on Lake View Park this summer, he became the lucky owner of the bell tower from School #7 in northwest Rochester. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
By Mike Governale

Every so often we’re contacted by a lucky homeowner who discovers a neat little historical treasure hidden away in their basement or roof rafters – usually an old book or a subway token. Then there’s Bill Schmidt. When Bill purchased his home on Lake View Park external link this summer, he became the lucky owner of an old bell tower from the long-demolished School #7 in northwest Rochester…

Bill's house is a SUPER cool 1911 Victorian with lots of history and nearly all of its charming details and features still intact. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
Bill’s house is a SUPER cool 1911 Victorian with nearly all of its charming details and features still intact. It’s got quite a history too. At one time the home was owned by Fred Tobin, president of Rochester Packing Company external link; one of the largest meat processors in the world at the time and innovator of the famed White Hot. Sadly, Tobin’s son, Donald C. Tobin committed suicide at the age of 23 by leaping from the south rail of the Driving Park Bridge.

One of the big selling points of the house was hiding beneath the overgrowth here in the back yard. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
The house does need some work. A paint job for sure, and some windows repaired. But Bill’s biggest project is hiding here beneath the overgrowth in the back yard.

In 1968, School #7 was demolished. The homeowner at the time, John Halter, asked the owner of Atlas Wrecking if they would move the bell tower to his back yard. [IMAGE: Provided by Bill Schmidt]
In 1968, School #7 (located around the corner at 219 Pierpont Street external link) was demolished. The homeowner at the time, John Halter, saw the school’s bell cupola sitting on the school grounds and asked the owner of Atlas Wrecking if they would move it to his back yard. They did, and Halter made good use of it for years as a gazebo.

Bill says he would like to restore it but acknowledges he will need the help of a few professionals. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
Fast forward to 2015 and Bill Schmidt now feels like he’s hit the jackpot. “This has got to be the best find for me yet! This bell tower is 113 years old and is still sitting in a backyard on Lake View Park where it was rigged into place in 1968.”

Bill says he would like to restore it but acknowledges he will need the help of a few professionals. “I have Wegman Hardwoods willing to help with the wood work,” he says. “I also have an offer from Spring Sheet Metal to bring in a crane to move it for me.”

Bill would like to have it placed in the street out front of his house so the public can enjoy it. [IMAGE: Provided by Bill Schmidt]
So where will he move the 20 foot high structure to? One idea, he says, is to have it placed in the street out front of his house so the public can enjoy it. Lake View Park external link has a wide tree-lined median running down the center of it where the tower would fit nicely.

Here’s an example external link of another school bell tower that adorns a playground in Elkin, North Carolina.

The actual bell (shown here) is still on display inside the 'new' Virgil I. Grissom School #7. [IMAGE: Provided by Bill Schmidt]
The actual bell (shown above) is still on display inside the “new” Virgil I. Grissom School #7. When it was still active, the bell was rung by “model students” of the school at the start and end of each school day.

As Bill gets into the project he promises to keep RocSubway updated so we all can follow along with the progress. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
Bill says he won’t be able to start work on the cupola until next Spring at the earliest. Right now he’s preoccupied with the painting of his house. But as he gets into the project he promises to keep RocSubway updated so we all can follow along with the progress.

• • •

History of School #7

Newspaper clipping from 1968. [IMAGE: Provided by Bill Schmidt]
Click on the image above for a larger view of the news clipping.

Newspaper clipping from 1968. [IMAGE: Provided by Bill Schmidt]
Click on the image above for a larger view of the news clipping.

• • •

You Can Help

If you have experience with restorations, or know anyone who would like to assist with this effort, please contact us at info@RochesterSubway.com and I will put you in touch with Bill.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, November 1st, 2015 at 11:15 pm and is filed under Architecture, Rochester History, Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

7 Responses to “Bell Tower from Rochester School #7, Rediscovered”

  1. jeff freeland says:

    What about using it as a focus for the ill-defined Maplewood Rose Garden?

  2. Connie Johnston says:

    I’ll bet I was one of the last students to ring that bell – it was quite a privilege. I graduated from #7 in 1967.

  3. Brigitte Karlof says:

    I went there from about 1952-59. Lots of memories there.

  4. Ivan Lennon says:

    I am trying to locate the original bell stolen in 1951 by Dick McMahon (JMHS ’47) and later principal

    I can be reached at navilenn65@gmail.com

  5. Bill says:

    @ Ivan….. Thanks for this info Ivan! I don’t think many people knew of this story!

    The current condition of the Cupola (Bell Tower) is in very bad condition right now! I am currently looking for volunteers to help stabilize its condition so that it can be saved. Due to lack of funds and time right now it is hard for me to take on this project.

    The city of Rochester wants me to take it down and I refuse to to that!

    So if there are any retired carpenters or Sheet Metal workers that would be interested in helping please contact me at
    Wdsbb6157@Rochester.rr.com

  6. Emily says:

    @Bill…thanks for the update on this story! We need to get the message out about this though! As much as I love rochestersubway.com, I worry that it doesn’t have a broad enough audience (especially now) to get you the help you need to preserve this piece of Rochester history. Have you thought about contacting the media and possibly starting a crowdfunding page? Or maybe contacting the Landmark Society to see if they have suggestions. I know some of the local towns have community groups on Facebook. Perhaps the city has something similar where you could post your story? I’m sure that if enough people heard about this amazing piece of history, you could get the right volunteers with the skills you need!


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