On the Hour? Sag Harbor Methodist Church’s Bell Rings Again

Hunchback church bell cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

April Gornik and her husband, Eric Fischl, who are renovating the former Sag Harbor Methodist Church to turn it into an arts incubator center, made a decision about the big bell that used to be 40 feet up in the bell tower of the building. It had been on the ground floor under a tarp, but using a large crane, the workmen put it back up where it belonged. It weighs more than a ton.

A clapper for it was not found, but one was made, and there have been trial rings by both of the owners of the building and several others. From the street, you can’t see it up there, but you can hear it ring all around town through the slatted sides of the belfry.

Plan for Sag Harbor United Methodist Church
Former plan for Sag Harbor United Methodist Church, Photo: Compass

The comforting sound of church bells are heard during the day in some Hamptons towns, but not others. Southampton’s Presbyterian Church on Meeting House Lane and Main Street sounds the hour with the bell in its belfry. In East Hampton, the Presbyterian Church on Main Street has a carillon of bells up top on which songs are played every once in a while. No such bells play in Bridgehampton or Westhampton Beach.

At this time, the Fire Department in Sag Harbor sounds their siren at noon every day. They’ve been doing that for many, many years, to back in the day when, in the 1930s and 1940s, Sag Harbor was a factory town and the workers would know it was time for their lunch break. They’d stop what they were doing, find a place to sit and open their lunch boxes. Why it goes on now, I do not know. You can be having a drink at the American Hotel and the siren will sound and you’ll think there’s a fire somewhere, then look at your watch and realize it’s just noon.

How beautiful it would be to not have that siren but instead have the Methodist Church bell sound the hour up there. I know that the Presbyterian Church in Southampton has a special mechanism in the tower near the bell, which, run by a computer, has the bell sound the hour.

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