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Too expensive to bring up to code, old Bethany Town Hall demolished, cupola and bell saved

By Howard B. Owens
bethany town hall demolition
A member of the demolition crew uses a chainsaw to cut one of the supports of the cupola before a crane lifts it off in one piece for the purpose of preservation.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Before Tuesday, the last person to ring the bell in the cupola of the old Bethany Town Hall was now-retired Town of Bethany employee Kenny Morgan.

That was 25 years ago, at least.

And he got in a bit of trouble for doing it.

"Why did you ring the bell?" The Batavian asked.

"I don't know," Morgan said. "We had to go over there and do some work, so I figured since I was there and the rope was dangling down out of the opening, I would just ring it a little bit."

All of the "old timers," as he put it, started calling the Town Hall and showing up in the parking lot to see what the emergency was, he said.

The town supervisor at the time told him, "Don't ever do it again."

Today, the bell was rung one last time while it was still, technically, in the cupola (the top of the structure had just been removed) by a member of the demolition crew hired to take down the old town hall (see video at the bottom of this story).

The building represents memories and their community to the residents of Bethany, but strictly speaking, it's not a historical building, so there's no funding to bring it up to code for public use, which would cost in excess of $2 million. The town board decided to hire a firm to bring it down before nature and vandals cause any issues.

The cupola and bell are being saved (the bell, once removed, was taken off-site by the contractor to a secure location to protect it from potential thieves) for a small park that will take the place of the old town hall.

The whole project is costing the town $119,000, said Supervisor Carl Hyde.

"The past residents of Bethany smiled on us today because the cupola came down without a problem," Hyde said. "All in one piece. The bell in the yoke came down without a problem and in one piece, so evidently, it was meant to be. The way I look at it, everything went smoothly. You know, it's a sad day, but it's gonna preserve the property. It's going to preserve the bell and the cupola in a green space. That will let people know that there was actually something here that was important to the residents."

The contractor doing the demolition work is out of Akron, Wargo Enterprises.  

Demolition started with the removal of the cupola and bell, which took a couple of hours of meticulous work.

The crane operator predicted the cupola would weigh between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds. If it weighed more than 12,000, he was going to call in another crane.  Once it was off the building, he said gauges indicated it weighed less than 6,000 pounds.

The bell was made in Batavia by James H. Cochran in 1884.

With the cupola and bell safely removed, the Wargo crew got busy with heavy equipment smashing down the building.

Wayne Walker, who was born and raised in Bethany -- and last heard the bell ring long ago when he first got out of the military service and rang it himself -- said it's time to move on.

"It's seen its time," Walker said. "You would need to spend a lot of money to get it the way it should be. It's just a waste of money."

Previously:  Out of options, Bethany Town Board seeking bids for demolition of old town hall

NOTE: This story contains nine photos. The Batavian prepared 39 photos for publication.  To view all 39 photos, click here.  At the bottom, the photos below is a video of the bell ringing.

Photos by Howard Owens.

bethany town hall demolition
bethany town hall demolition
bethany town hall demolition
bethany town hall demolition
bethany town hall demolition
bethany town hall demolition
bethany town hall demolition
bethany town hall demolition
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