An “iconic” tourist attraction in need of repair > Town of Covington, KY

City hires contractor to repair exterior of Carroll Chimes bell tower

COVINGTON, Kentucky — When the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau was established in the 1970s, the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower in MainStrasse Village was its logo, and a pin bearing its likeness was worn by all CVB employees.

The tourist office is now known as “meetNKY”, but the bell tower – and its image – remains a familiar “icon” in the area.

“The Carroll Chimes Bell Tower has always been a major attraction that draws people to Covington,” said Julie Kirkpatrick, president and CEO of meetNKY. “He’s a Covington icon. Thousands of visitors each year make it part of their NKY experience.

This icon – although aging – is about to get the attention it needs.

In order to maintain the architectural integrity and functionality of the tower, the City of Covington will use federal grants (from the Community Development Block Grant program) to pay for repairs to the exterior of the tower. Last month, the Covington Board of Commissioners awarded a $109,450.65 contract to Bryant Hartke Construction to carry out the work.

It should start in August.

“The work being undertaken with this phase of repairs will stabilize the exterior of the tower,” said the city’s Neighborhood Services Manager, Brandon Holmes, who added that over the past few months he had received many calls residents asking about the steeple.

“Fortunately, the City is able to make the necessary investment for structural repairs now,” he said.

A partial list of repairs to be made to the tower suggests both the ravages of time and the attention to detail that will be required to overcome this damage:

  • Installation of a copper rain table, with all seams soldered by hand.
  • Replacement of counter flashing on copper roofs.
  • Grinding and grouting open or cracked mortar joints.
  • Installation of new European 18 oz. half round copper gutters as required, complete with new 4″ round aluminum downspouts.
  • Removal and reconstruction of four trimmers of swimming masts.
  • Replacement of the wood on the dome as needed.
  • Repair or replace framing as needed on upper clock tower.
  • Reconstruction of the double oarlock ban on all four sides.
  • Pressure washing and waterproofing of the entire steeple.

Holmes said repairs to the chimes, puppets, glockenspiel and internal parts will be undertaken in a future phase.

Bill Matteoli, assistant project manager with the city’s public works department, said the steeple won’t look much different once repairs are complete, but it will be in better condition.

Affectionately known as the Pied Piper Tower, the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower is a 100-foot-tall, 43-bell carillon housed in a German Gothic clock. It was named after Kentucky Governor Julian Carroll. The tower was completed in 1979, adding old world charm to the village of MainStrasse.

From April to October, as the tower chimed every hour, mechanical figures moved across its balcony to enact the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, a tale repeatedly shaped by Brothers Grimm, Robert Browning and the others.

Kirkpatrick said meetNKY always features the tower as one of its iconic images of Covington.

‘We always feature the Tower (our history and our roots) as one of Covington’s iconic images, along with the Roebling Bridge Span (our connection), the New Riff Distillation Tower (our future) and the Florence Y’ All Water Tower (our quirky, cheeky side),” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s our icons that show NKY pride.”

As for internal repairs, which can be costly, Holmes said the city will look to tap into the private sector for contributions to help with those efforts. He said anyone interested in donating to these efforts can find out more by contacting him at Brandon.Holmes@covingtonky.gov or (859) 292-2164.

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Keith P. Plain