News

Historic Bell Preserved at The Heritage Museum

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center would like to announce and acknowledge appreciation for the generous donations made by Connie Yore of The Michigan Questers’ Burnett’s Traders No. 567, as well as Vance Ferguson Cemetery Memorials. Their donations have enabled the museum to conduct preservation work on the original Congregational Church Bell in the Heritage Museum’s south garden.

Cast in bronze in 1869, the bell once rang from the steeple of the Congregational Church, built just ten years earlier in 1859. The Congregational Church relocated to Niles Road when they expanded and built a larger church around 1992. The previous church located on Main Street became known as the ‘Landmark Center’ or ‘Heritage Center’ until a devastating fire in 1994 destroyed the original building. The fire’s consequences on the bell left it with cracks after falling from the steeple. In 2000, the bell was dedicated as The Historic Landmark Center Bell, in memory of Heritage Society member Jerry Sanders.

Connie Yore, a local St. Joseph business owner for more than 40 years, founded The Michigan Questers’ Burnett’s Traders Chapter No. 567 in 1972. She served as president for The Michigan Questers’ for a two-year term from 2015 to 2017. The Questers International is a preservation, restoration and antiques study group that began in 1944. The Questers organization supports new chapter formations. The local Burnett’s Traders Chapter No. 567 has been involved in several local restoration projects over the years. Just a few of these include the two original
Fresnel lenses of the St. Joseph Lighthouses, an Islamic-style chandelier at the Niles History Center’s Chapin Mansion, the stained-glass mausoleum doors from the St. Joseph City Cemetery, and now The Historic Landmark Center Bell. Connie graciously donated funds from her
presidency of The Michigan Questers toward the preservation of this historic bell.

Vance Ferguson Cemetery Memorials, a long-standing local merchant located at 1559 Pipestone in Benton Harbor, also made a generous donation towards this project. The museum, having requested a quote for a matching bronze plaque to accompany the bell after conservation,
was unable to afford the plaque. “Sandy at Vance Ferguson gave us other options. We had decided to go with an aluminum style plaque, when Sandy called and told us they would like to donate the bronze plaque!” Museum Specialist, Jennifer Richmond-Ananbeh said.

Jennifer Richmond-Ananbeh, Museum Specialist at The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center, as well as the Conservator that preserved the 1869 bell, explains that, “Due to the bell’s horizontal crack, hanging the bell from its yoke is likely to increase pressure, which could cause
further separation. The safest option is to leave the bell on its current base support. After a thorough conservation-grade cleaning, we sealed the yoke and bell with a metal-specific sealant to avoid any further deterioration. The yoke, being ferrous, caused rust to bleed around the base of
the bell. The sealant should mitigate this problem, while providing solid protection from UV-light and any salts that may travel be to the bell from public sidewalks. This will need to be monitored, with an annual cleaning, measuring and photographing schedule.”

The Heritage Museum is located at 601 Main Street in St. Joseph, Michigan, at the beautiful Priscilla U. Byrns Center. Admission to all exhibits is free; exhibit open hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10am-4pm. For more information, call the Heritage Museum at 269-983-1191 or visit
www.theheritagemcc.org.