“The idea of a Singing Tower as a proper World War Memorial was first born in the mind of Granville G. Valentine, Chairman of the Virginia Citizens Carillon Committee. The beauty of this conception communicated itself to others, until eventually the entire State was captivated by the thought of Singing Bells proclaiming from their lofty tower the praise and unforgettable glory of Virginia’s war dead overseas, as well as Virginia’s living sons and daughters who served in the World War.” So says the 1932 Dedication Program I bought (less than four bucks) while “working” at the antiques mall today.
The twenty-page booklet notes that the tower’s height of 240 feet, coupled with the ground elevation of 240 feet above sea level, made it “the highest structure, measured from sea level, within the capital of Virginia.” Located in “the western suburbs of Richmond,” and housing sixty-six bells, the builders also included public rooms for displays and a terrace “suitable for use as a reviewing stand.”
A series of inaugural events, held in October and November, are listed. The first dedication event included “Onward, Christian Soldiers” played on the bells, various speeches, and the laying of wreaths. On the following weekends, music selections included “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Dixie,” “Ave Maria,” “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” and various Chopin, Mozart, and Handel pieces which don’t mean much to me. Also, for you multi-culturalists: a “Hawaiian Love Song,”: “Aloha Oe”; “Golden Crown,” a Negro spiritual; “Londonderry Air,” an “Irish Tune”; the “Russian Melody,” “Volga Boat Song”; and “The God of Abraham Praise,” a “Jewish Melody.”
Finally, what dedication program is complete without acknowledging donors? Some of my favorites: Pollard & Bagby [these days known as purveyors of, ah, inexpensive apartments], Emerick Chevrolet Sales Corp., the Young Men’s Shop, Sydnor & Hundley, Rowlett Bicycle Co., Rosenberg Delicatessen [gotta look up that address], Richmond Art Co., and Schwarzschild Bros. The only national companies I recognize for certain are Sears-Roebuck Co. and F. W. Woolworth. (I’m not sure about Standard Drug, Hammond Co., and a couple of others.)
Of course, this weekend the Carillon neighborhood sponsored its famous Arts in the Park. S. says they do issue those pink and black event banners to every household. The tower and surrounding park work well as public space, still. No matter the “reviewing stand” serves skateboarders and families in the park may not know what the building memorializes.