RALEIGH — Renovations officially started for N.C. State University's iconic bell tower this week, and it will soon have actual bells to ring.
The area around the Memorial Belltower is fenced off, and scaffolding is going up around the 115-foot granite structure as the $6.5 million project is underway. The construction will last a little over a year, according to the university.
The bell tower at the entrance to campus on Hillborough Street has been ringing for about 70 years, but the bell sounds have been coming from speakers. That's about to change.
N.C. State will install 54 bells in the tower thanks to a gift from Bill and Frances Henry of Gastonia in 2017. The donation also includes funding for a carillon and interior stairs for the tower, as well as renovation and repairs.
"The bell tower is one of the most hallowed places on our campus, but with so many facilities needs in recent years, we haven't been able to give it the attention that it needed and deserves," N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said at the time. "This gift represents the culmination of a team effort to ensure that the bell tower stands strong for generations to come, and it's a great example of the impact of our growing culture of philanthropy."
The monument was originally built to honor N.C. State alumni killed in World War I, and construction began a century ago. Now, the university says, it's a "symbol of inspiration to the Wolfpack community."
The beloved bell tower lights up red for holidays that honor veterans and to celebrate faculty and students' achievements. That includes athletic events, a tradition UNC-Chapel Hill adopted this year.