Fourth Ward School to hang its bells |

Fourth Ward School to hang its bells

Jeff Munson

VIRGINIA CITY – After 62 years of silence, bells will ring Monday at the Fourth Ward School bell tower in this historic mining town.

The addition of the 122-year-old school bell is part of an ongoing $797,000 restoration project at the school and is set to ring about 11 a.m. with ceremonies in front of the school beginning at 10 a.m.

“This is something we are all very proud of and it couldn’t have happened without the help of some really good folks,” said Mark Preiss, executive director of the museum.

Plans call for the bell to ring through the holidays, Preiss said. Last minute details Friday included finding the appropriate rope to be used to ring the bell.

The bell was used from 1876 until 1936 when the Fourth Ward School closed. After being locked up for more than 50 years, local citizens feared some of the historic relics in the building would be lost or stolen, Preiss explained.

That is, until two years ago when an anonymous resident stepped forward and told museum officials the bell was safe and would be given back to the school if it would be restored and used again.

When the school’s north tower was built in 1997, the museum’s board of directors told the anonymous resident they would indeed like to place the bell in new the tower, Preiss said.

The effort snowballed from there when Reyman Brothers Construction of Reno agreed earlier this year to hoist the bell into the 70-foot tower, Priess said.

“We are interested in preserving local history and Virginia City is local to us,” said Jace Callender, school project manager for Reyman Brothers Construction. “We enjoyed working on it in 1984 and we’re pleased to have a part in putting the building back to the way it was.”

The historic school was one of 62 projects in 24 states to receive a federal grant award. The award, $639,271, is part of the government’s millennium initiative “Save America’s Treasures.” The Fourth Ward School restoration is the only Save America’s Treasures project in Nevada.

The entire exterior, including the roof and eaves system, windows, and a paint job are part of the renovation.

The four-story, 16-room school was built in 1876 to hold 1,000 students. The building was closed in 1936 and sat vacant for 50 years until one floor was reopened as a museum in 1986.

With the construction of the $450,000 north tower project in 1997, the public now has access to three floors of the building for the first time in 62 years. During the past 12 years, more than 440,000 visitors have visited the building.

Still, to fully complete indoor restoration, about $414,000 is needed to finish the 1,800-square-foot third-floor assembly room in the coming year, Preiss said.

To meet federal grant requirements, the museum is completing its Historic Structures Report, which will provide a clear description of the school’s architectural history, including its original appearances and what changes were made and when they were made, Preiss said.

“Upon completion, this is the place, this is the space that will serve our visitors for generations to come,” Preiss said.

For information, call (775) 847-0975 or (775) 847-1011.