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Friday, October 31, 2014

Calls ring out for restoration of bell at Monument

By Maya Rajamani
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
The Monument at West 239th Street and Riverdale Avenue.

A bell tower memorializing northwest Bronxites who served in World War I has stood silent for decades. 

But restoring the Riverdale Monument on West 239th Street, between Henry Hudson Parkway and Riverdale Avenue, could remind Riverdalians of those for whom the bell once tolled. 

“I think having the bell ring periodically brings attention to what this tower represents,” said Steven Johnstone-Mosher, a Riverdale resident of 17 years who lives in an apartment building across from the Monument. 

Formally known as the Riverdale-Spuyten Duyvil-Kingsbridge Memorial Bell Tower, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in January 2012. 

An antiques furniture conservator who trained at the Smithsonian Institute, Mr. Johnstone-Mosher was out for a walk in mid-July when he noticed a group of students working to clean the plaques lining the tower’s walls, which display the names of approximately 700 Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Spuyten Duyvil residents who served in the first world war. 

The group directed him to their supervisor, John Saunders, the monuments conservation manager with the Parks Department. 

Cast in the 1700s in Spain, the bell found its way to Mexico, Mr. Saunders said. During the Mexican American War of 1846-1848, American general Winfield Scott and his troops captured the bell and brought it back to New York City. 

It was housed in a Riverdale firehouse before finding a home at the Monument, a 500-ton tower made of fieldstone and limestone, designed by the famed local architect Dwight James Baum and completed in 1930. 

But the years took a toll on the tower and its bell, leaving it “somewhat derelict,” Mr. Saunders said. Several years ago, his department cleaned the tower — the lower portion of which had become filled with pigeon droppings — and screened the openings at the top to keep the resident pigeon colony out. 

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