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St. Luke's volunteer hopes crowdfunding effort will keep the church bells ringing

St. Luke's volunteer hopes crowdfunding effort will keep the church bells ringing
A volunteer at St. Luke's of the Mountains Episcopal Church in La Crescenta is trying to raise $10,000 to repair the church's bells, which are more than90 years old. (Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

The chimes at St. Luke's of the Mountains Episcopal Church in La Crescenta should be heard more often, according to church officials.

Since 1926, the sounds of the Deagan chimes atop the stone church — donated by the Watchorn family in honor of their son, a World War I pilot — used to be heard playing every 15 minutes for most of the day.

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Today, if Crescenta Valley residents want to hear the roughly 6,000 pounds of tubular bells playing, they'll have to attend one of two Sunday services at St. Luke's, where they are played manually using a small keyboard beside an organ.

This is why the church's volunteer junior warden, Steve Fox, started crowdsourcing funds to help repair and maintain the chimes to as close as original as possible. His niece helped set up a GoFundMe page last week, asking for donations with a goal of $10,000.

Reverend Father Kirby Smith stands in the belfy of the bell tower at St. Luke's.
Reverend Father Kirby Smith stands in the belfy of the bell tower at St. Luke's. (Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

"I'm doing it for one — love of the property, and because I just appreciate the history and historic meaning behind [the chimes]," Fox said.

Getting the chimes to play automatically, and thus more frequently, is an expensive endeavor because it operates mostly on ancient mechanics and requires a specific type of care. It's so specialized that the technician, who lives in Tennessee, stops by only once every two years.

Last time technician Bill Pope visited St. Luke's for a tune-up, he replaced pistons at the bottom of the chimes. Their rhythm could again be heard like clockwork, until six months later, when the internal clock itself stopped running.

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"If we wanted to restore it 100%, to where it's going to run [functionally] and not worry about it for another 30 years, it would probably cost us $30,000 to $40,000," Fox said.

The control panel for the bell chimes — connected to the keyboard in the sancutary — is a puzzle of solenoids and gears.
The control panel for the bell chimes — connected to the keyboard in the sancutary — is a puzzle of solenoids and gears. (Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

Fox estimates that the GoFundMe goal is enough to keep the chimes running for another five to 10 years, acknowledging that the chimes are not a top priority for the services attended by about 110 churchgoers.

Still, when asked if the church would opt for a cheaper, more contemporary replacement for the chimes, Fox said it would ruin the historical meaning.

"I would be devastated if that would happen and a lot of people in the church would be devastated if you tried to put something new and modern in," Fox said.

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Jeff Landa, jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

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