Carillon Bell Tower Nearing Completion at Oakland University

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The Elliott Carillon Tower at Oakland University is in the final phases of construction and is on schedule for completion by this fall, says John Harmala, the project’s senior manager.

The $6.5-million tower features a 49-bell carillon, ranging from low C to high C, and is currently undergoing masonry work. Once the masons are done and off the 140-foot scaffolding, landscapers can begin work on the surrounding site.

“Our campus is kind of sprawled out without a center to it,” Harmala says. “(Hugh and Nancy Elliott), who donated the money for the tower, and the university envision that this will be a focal point on the campus for the students, while creating an identity for the university. If you’ve seen the tower, it seems to be doing that already.”

What will be Michigan’s 14th carillon can be played either manually by a carillonneur or automatically — 25 of the bells can be programmed to play electronically. The Elliott’s donation also includes a practice consul, to be available on campus.

Harmala says the construction team ran into several challenges due to the severe winter weather. “It’s not like a normal construction project. It’s a small footprint and when the construction workers are out there, they’re working on top of each other. And the winter was treacherous — you can’t have a steel worker 150 feet in the air when it’s 15 degrees below and snowing.

“Our construction manager (Southfield-based Barton Marlow Co. working with Ideal Contracting in southwest Detroit) had to be creative to make up for lost time.”

The bells for the tower were secured through The Verdin Co. in Cincinnati and the Royal Bellfoundry Petit & Fritsen of the Netherlands.

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