The toll of beautiful bells echoes near the corner of South Patterson and Carillon boulevards, their song hearkening to a time when thousands of people gathered 75 years ago on Easter Sunday 1942 to witness Dayton’s newest landmark, a grand symbol of the Gem City: Deeds Carillon.
A towering musical instrument housing 57 bells, Deeds Carillon sits at the heart of Carillon Historical Park, where old-growth sycamores, 19th century buildings and groundbreaking artifacts occupy the scenery. The surrounding terrain was designed by the Olmsted brothers, the famed landscape architects responsible for the grounds at Central Park, the Biltmore Estate and the United States Capitol.
In this setting the first official carillon concert occurred on April 5, 1942. Since that time Deeds Carillon has become synonymous with Carillon Historical Park, the city of Dayton and the Miami Valley’s incredible story.
The chimes of history still ring true.
While traveling in Bruges, Belgium, in the 1930s, Edith Walton Deeds was allured by the enchanting sound of carillon bells. She dreamed of sharing this music with the city of Dayton.
Edith, an accomplished musician, was the wife of famed industrialist and Carillon Park founder Col. Edward A. Deeds. Born in nearby Spring Valley, Ohio, Edith’s father, Samuel Walton, encouraged his daughter’s love for music, enrolling her in piano lessons at an early age. Edith carried her love for music throughout her life—a love that was eventually immortalized by the construction of Deeds Carillon.
Designed by Reinhard & Hofmeister of New York, the architectural firm responsible for Rockefeller Center in New York City, Deeds Carillon towers 151 feet in the air, making it Ohio’s largest. And while arranging bells to form a carillon—a musical instrument that has at least 23 tuned bells and ranges at least two octaves—dates back to the Middle Ages, at the time Deeds Carillon was dedicated on August 23, 1942, it was one of only six in the entire nation.
In fair weather and foul Deeds Carillon has provided a magnificent soundtrack for the Gem City. In recent years a new generation of Daytonians has come to recognize the bell tower transformed into the Carillon Tree of Light illuminated with more than 20,000 glowing bulbs during the Yuletide season, the centerpiece of a new holiday celebration: A Carillon Christmas.
Fittingly, Edith Walton Deeds had the entrance door to Deeds Carillon inscribed with the timeless lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Christmas Bells. And while the poem’s title pays homage to the Christmas season Longfellow’s words provide inspiration throughout the entire year. Day in and day out:
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearthstones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men”
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