Restored Bells of Milwaukee Installed at HACM’s Convent Hill
Thanks to the efforts of The Bells of Milwaukee and donations from the Argosy Foundation, Herbert H. Kohl Charities, and an award from the Public Art Conversation Fund of the City of Milwaukee Arts Board, the two historic bells on display at HACM’s Convent Hill property have been refurbished and reinstalled.
The founder of the nonprofit The Bells of Milwaukee, Michael Horne, explains the reasoning behind restoring the bells, “Our mission is that all the bells of Milwaukee might ring in unison as a message of peace. This project is an important milestone toward that goal, and it is my hope that it will serve as a catalyst for others like it.”
Weighing in at approximately 640 pounds each, the bells were cast in Milwaukee in 1863 and 1894. The bells were housed at the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s massive convent on Milwaukee and Ogden Streets. The city block size convent was built in 1851, but by the 1950’s the Sisters’ regarded the convent as obsolete. The combination of the Sisters’ growing membership, widening community programs, and required fireproofing led the Sisters to build a new facility in Mequon, Wisconsin. The convent was demolished in 1959.
At this time, the City of Milwaukee and HACM were looking for ways to address the increasing demand among elderly individuals for affordable, quality housing within the city. HACM was given the option to purchase the property and did so. The housing authority completed construction on the initial Convent Hill complex in 1960. Development of second iteration of Convent Hill began in 2007 to create a more structurally secure and accessible building.
Throughout these changes the bells remained on-site, but time and weather took a toll on their condition. The restoration of the bells ensures they will be enjoyed for many more years to come and will hopefully one day ring in unison with the other bells of Milwaukee.