“The Campanile is a metaphor for UNI and what we are all about. The University of Northern Iowa provides a very solid foundation through the education students receive here that allows our graduates to chase their dreams, to reach for the sky and create a life that enhances the lives of the people around them. The solid granite base of the Campanile is much like the education one receives at UNI. It provides the solid foundation upon which the Campanile reaches into the sky and counts the passing of time, and the Carillon provides the music that enhances the lives of everyone around campus.” - UNI President Mark Nook, 2018
The tradition of campaniles goes back well over a thousand years. Usually, a campanile served as a bell tower for a nearby church. The root of the word campanile is the Late Latin campana, meaning bells. The earliest campaniles were cylindrical: the so-called Leaning Tower of Pisa is a modified example of the round based style. Later, campaniles tended to have square bases. Perhaps the best known classic versions are the soaring, 324 foot tall Campanile in St. Mark's Square in Venice and the Campanile di Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as Giotto's Campanile in Florence.
Interest in building campaniles revived in the nineteenth century. Sometimes these later campaniles would still be associated with a church. However, campaniles were also built either freestanding or attached to commercial, industrial, government, and collegiate buildings. There are several campaniles in the Midwest: for example, the 1897 structure on the Iowa State University campus and the much more recent Henningson Campanile built in 1988 on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus.
The UNI Campanile was ultimately the result of almost twelve years of planning and work. Over the course of the Iowa State Normal School's history, graduating classes often collected money to purchase small gifts for the institution. These gifts included such things as a fossil for the Museum, art reproductions, a plaque, or a set of chairs. The Classes of 1912, 1913, and 1914 raised the bar when they donated enough money to build decorative gateways along College Street.
There were even greater things in store. When alumni came to campus for their annual meeting at Commencement in June 1914, Alumni Association President Fred Sage appointed a committee to "consider the matter of erecting a suitable memorial in behalf of the faculty, graduates, students, and friends of the institution." The committee, consisting of prominent alumni Charles Meyerholz, Bruce Francis, Emma Lambert, Mrs. C. H. Wise, and Charles A. Fullerton, studied the matter and a few months later recommended the building of a "grand and inspiring memorial in the form of a beautiful campanile." The base of the memorial would be twenty feet square; the tower would be one hundred feet tall with a large clock near the top. It would cost $12,000.
The idea of the memorial was officially presented to students on October 19, 1914, when Professor Charles Meyerholz, Class of 1898, presided over an excited audience of more than one thousand students in the auditorium of what is now Lang Hall. Professors Ida Fesenbeck and David Sands Wright, former Board member Roger Leavitt, and alumna Emma Ridley Colegrove spoke strongly in favor of the project. President Homer Seerley echoed their thoughts and appealed to all students, former students, faculty, and even Training School pupils to consider giving at least something toward the memorial so that they all could feel that they had been a part of the grand structure.
Despite the initial enthusiasm for the project, matters were quiet for awhile. Students kept the memorial in mind, but it was not until May 1915 that anything substantial happened: the Class of 1915 pledged one per cent of their salary for the coming year to the Campanile fund. While the class did not quite meet its goal, they did raise about $1000, mostly in pledges. A year later, in May 1916, the student newspaper, the College Eye, noted Professor Meyerholz's report that contributions, ranging from $5 to $100 were coming "in a very satisfactory way". The newspaper challenged the Class of 1916 to match or exceed the Class of 1915 in supporting the Campanile. Apparently, the Class of 1916 did not establish a particular fundraising goal for its class gift. However, it did decide to direct whatever funds it collected to the Campanile, rather than to a smaller gift.
By the time that the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Professor Meyerholz reported that about $5000 had been pledged to the Campanile fund. There were no special attempts to raise money during the war; people's attention and money were directed to the war effort. But following the war, when the project came back to life, it took on a new aspect. From its inception, the Campanile seems to have been conceived as a memorial to the students, faculty, and founders of the school. But in the wake of the national sacrifice of the war, the climate for a memorial changed. Across the country, communities and organizations were planning buildings, freestanding memorials, parks, and other public expressions of gratitude to remember those who had served in the war.
The Iowa State Teachers College was no exception to this patriotic spirit. A headline in the February 19, 1919, issue of the College Eye declared:
Campanile Proposed as Memorial to War Efforts; Every Alumnus, Student, Teacher,
and Friend Should Rally to Support of College
The plans and the price tag were still the same, but the motivating spirit had changed. The article solicited contributions, however small, from everyone who had ever had a connection with the school. It promised that there would be careful accounting of all contributions and that the records of those contributions would be open to the public. The location of the Campanile was initially planned to be near College Street, between the President's House and the College Hospital, now known as the Honors House. Plans in the spring of 1919 indicated that the memorial could be completed within two years.
In June 1919, the Alumni Association, always the driving force behind the Campanile, was looking at designs for the memorial. They hoped to get construction under way in the fall. The Committee, consisting of Charles Meyerholz, Charles A. Fullerton, Sara M. Riggs, Emma Lambert, Mrs. C. H. Wise, and Benjamin Boardman, requested that everyone make a donation to the project.
However, pledges, often made in the spirit of the moment, are one thing; cash can be a different thing. Money barely trickled in. The Class of 1918 donated $15.80. Alumni contributed $1, $2, or $5, with total quarterly contributions sometimes under $50. Bigger numbers were clearly necessary. Consequently, the Alumni News Letter of April 1, 1920, took on a tone that was different from its earlier appeals for nickels, dimes, and quarters. It stated, "Remember that $1.00 and $2.00 subscriptions will never build the Campanile but that $10.00 and $20.00 subscriptions will build it." Designated faculty members would canvass their departments for contributions. The newsletter also presented a sketch of the proposed memorial.
Planning sketch by architects Proudfoot, Bird, and Rawson, 1920.
The Student Council made a strong push for contributions that spring. The Philomathean Literary Society donated $25. A student mass meeting resulted in 315 students pledging a total of $1950, with more student pledge cards still to be turned in. At that point, in May 1920, about $10,000 had been pledged, with about $2100 in pledges that had actually been paid. By July the total cash in the fund was about $2800. By September the total was about $3000. Officials hoped that construction could begin in the spring of 1921. In April 1921 the total had reached $3200. That spring there was another campaign to raise additional money, and, indeed, much more money would be needed. A brief article in the College Eye in the spring of 1921 stated that the cost of the project had risen to $40,000. But only about $3500 in cash had been collected.
Another early sketch of the Campanile.
The fundraising campaign then ran into an obstacle which, like the war, was out of their control: economic hard times. The early 1920s were very difficult, especially for a local economy that depended on agriculture. Most people had no money to spare. The subject of the Campanile just about disappeared from campus publications for about a year and a half. In October 1923 there was still less than $5000 in cash in the fund. And construction costs continued to rise. Consequently, in 1924, the Alumni Association appointed a new Campanile Committee headed by Albert C. Fuller, Associate Director of the college Extension Service.
Albert C. Fuller.
The new committee established clear goals and even adopted a slogan: "A Campanile for I. S. T. C. in 1926". That year would be the fiftieth anniversary of the college and the fortieth anniversary of the presidency of Homer Seerley. It would certainly be an appropriate occasion for a memorial. Professor Fuller announced a fundraising banquet for local alumni. Professor Alison Aitchison persuaded the Class of 1924 to donate all of their surplus funds to the project. She, along with Professor Harry Eels and Secretary Benjamin Boardman, brought a model of the Campanile into chapel and gave "peppy talks" to the assembled students.
Once again, pledges, but not a great deal of cash, rolled in. Faculty of the college were among the significant contributors. The cost of the project had now risen to about $50,000. The Committee said that it would proceed with construction when the cash level reached $10,000. In May 1926 the College Eye "Inquiring Reporter" asked students if they thought that the Campanile money could be better spent on something else. One student thought that the Campanile was "the bunk." Another thought that the money would do more good in the Student Loan Fund than in an "expensive, ornamental, and useless building." But others liked the Campanile and what it represented. To some extent, this division of opinion was similar to what people thought before the construction of another campus icon, the UNI-Dome, fifty years later.
The pace of fundraising did pick up. In June 1924, the Alumni Association received estimates for the project: $20,000-$25,000 for brick and stone; $12,000 for the clock; and about $15,000 for a 13-15 bell chime. Odd, but substantial, bits of cash came in. A fund set up many years earlier for student entertainment was dispersed, with half, $510, going to the Campanile and half to the Student Loan Fund. The Spring Music Festival Committee had $1000 ready to contribute as soon as construction began. The Minnesingers Glee Club presented a benefit performance for the Campanile to a full house in the Auditorium.
An Alumni Council was formed to push the project across the state. On September 30, 1924, Robert Fullerton, a noted tenor and former music faculty member, returned to campus to perform; also on the program was the new head of the Orchestral Music Department, Edward Kurtz, in his campus debut performance on the violin.
Proceeds from this performance, amounting to over $160, went to the Campanile fund. By mid-October 1924, the cash level was at about $6800 and pledges totaled $20,500. At long last, supporting the Campanile with cash and substantial pledges had become the correct thing to do.
The Campanile Committee took confidence in this level of cash and pledges. They asked the Board of Education for permission to proceed with the construction of the Campanile. The Board gave permission and appointed a committee from its own membership to work with the Campanile Committee to select a site, supervise construction, and manage finances. The group moved quickly. Some years earlier the proposed site had been on the eastern edge of campus, along College Street and near the President's House. But since that time, the school had acquired forty acres of land on the western edge of campus and extending to Hudson Road. The group chose a site close to the middle of the newly-expanded campus. In retrospect, this was a wise choice. It is hard now even to imagine how the Campanile, a one hundred foot tall spire, would have looked along College Street, crowded by other buildings and adjacent to considerable vehicle traffic. There would have been almost no way to get a clear visual perspective on the soaring structure. The wonderful archive of photographic and iconic images of the Campanile that has accumulated over the years would not have been possible.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place at 3:30PM on Tuesday, November 18, 1924. According to the College Eye, the senior class, led by the College Band, marched from the Auditorium steps to the building site. Hundreds of students and many faculty members joined the group. Mrs. David Sands Wright (nee Eliza Rawstern), a member of the first four year graduating class of the Normal School in 1880, turned the first shovelful of soil.
Mrs. David Sands Wright, left of center, with shovel, November 18, 1924.
The group sang the ISTC Loyalty Song. Committee head A. C. Fuller spoke and the group dispersed on what the photograph above indicates was a chilly mid-November day.
The Campanile Committee probably felt relieved, at least for the moment. The Board of Education had accepted the project, the State Architect was working on the design, and ground had been broken. But, with only about half of the needed $50,000 in hand or pledged, they still had a lot of money to raise. The Committee had big plans. In December 1924 they announced that there would be a special radio broadcast over WSUI on February 17, 1925. Alumni groups were urged to arrange banquets and reunions for ISTC alumni at convenient locations around and outside Iowa at the time of the broadcast. The program would originate in the Auditorium, where the Minnesingers would sing the old songs and President Seerley and others would talk about the Teachers College. They especially hoped to heighten interest in the Campanile project.
Souvenir of President Seerley's radio broadcast, 1925.
The broadcast went well, and the response was remarkable. People in over twenty states, as well as Canada, reported that they had heard the broadcast. And, just as important, the cash total rose from about $8000 to about $14,000 in a few months.
James Owen Perrine.
Just a month after the broadcast, the college received a gift that may well have assured the completion of the Campanile. Earlier, committee head A. C. Fuller had learned that a famous clock mechanism would be given to "the institution or municipality that could afford it the best setting." This mechanism had won a prize at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. It was known as the Fasoldt clock in honor of its inventor, Charles Fasoldt. After the Exposition, the Fasoldt Clock Company continued to exhibit the mechanism for many years. In 1925 the company decided to give the clock away. Professor Fuller brought the matter to the attention of President Seerley. They decided to ask Teachers College alumnus and former faculty member James Owen Perrine, who lived in the East, to go to Albany, New York. Twenty years later Mr. Perrine recalled his visit:
When I arrived in Albany at that time, Mr. Fasoldt had a pile of telegrams on his desk several inches high, due to the fact that his offer had been put on the Associated Press wire. He didn't know what to do and he had no basis or background for selecting any of those who asked for the clock. I had taken along a photograph of Mr. Seerley and a copy of the College Annual, and in an hour or so had sold Mr. Fasoldt the idea of giving the clock to Cedar Falls . . . . Furthermore, I presented the idea that the setting for the clock in the Campanile at Cedar Falls would be one which would receive special attention from all the good folk of Northern Iowa. Moreover Mr. Fasoldt, as the result of my personal solicitation, visualized perfectly and intimately the real appreciation that Iowa State Teachers College would have for his [grand]father's clock. In other words, I confidently believe that young Mr. Fasoldt would not ever have considered giving the clock to Iowa State Teachers College had I not personally presented the case to him. The clock was sought for very diligently by New York University and other much better known institutions than Iowa State Teachers College.
In March 1925, Mr. Fasoldt announced that he would donate the clock to the college. Two years later, when the Campanile was complete, he presented the clock mechanism to the college and installed it, along with a mechanism that struck the Westminster change on the quarter hours, in the Campanile.
The acquisition of this unexpected gift in kind represented another significant milestone in the Campanile fundraising program. The Committee had thought that a clock mechanism would cost at least $10,000. Now, that money could be re-directed to other Campanile expenses. A certain amount of fundraising pressure was reduced, though the target figure for the total cost of the project was reported at $60,000 later that spring. As school closed in May 1925, the College Eye reported that students had pledged an additional $4000 for the project.
Campanile cornerstone program, 1925.
The cornerstone of the Campanile was laid on June 1, 1925, in association with Commencement exercises. Fred C. Gilchrist, a son of the school's first president, James Cleland Gilchrist, spoke at the Commencement breakfast. Following his address, the College Band led a procession to the building site. Professor Wright gave the invocation. Then President Seerley introduced Pauline Lewelling Devitt, a member of the Board of Education. Mrs. Devitt was the daughter of Lorenzo D. Lewelling, who was head of the Normal School Board of Directors that hired Homer Seerley in 1886. She and Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds James E. Robinson laid the cornerstone. Then Mrs. Devitt gave an address which paid special tribute to the forty years of work at the college by Homer Seerley. She compared him to Moses leading the Israelites through the wilderness.
James E. Robinson,
Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds.
Mrs. Devitt and Mr. Robinson had placed the cornerstone on a base of reinforced concrete that was twenty-four feet square and six feet deep. This foundation would support a tower that would be about 101 feet tall. The walls of the UNI Campanile would range from twenty to thirty-seven inches thick. The building materials would come from several midwestern sites: the granite base from Sauk Rapids, Minnesota; the brick from Rockford, Illinois; and the limestone from Bedford, Indiana. The brick would be laid in an English cross bond pattern. The inscription on the base of the structure, suggested by college alumnus and Business Manager Benjamin Boardman, would read: "In Memory of Founders and Builders of Iowa State Teachers College." The projected dedication date was May 31, 1926.
President Seerley, with masons, trowel,
and level at Campanile.
In the July 29, 1925, issue of the College Eye, the Campanile and the 1920s fad for crossword puzzles came together in the following illustration.
College Eye crossword puzzle, 1925.
By late September, 1925, the college was putting together a fiftieth anniversary celebration that would feature the Campanile as well as a pageant, with "hundreds of characters in costume, orchestra, choruses, dancing, and unique lighting effects . . . ." James Schell Hearst, later a member of the English faculty and a distinguished poet, would write that pageant, The Spirit of Fifty Years. In January 1926, Secretary Boardman reported that the cash fund had reached $17,000. Professor Fuller and his committee had begun to focus on the bells that would be hung in the tower. He hoped to have sufficient funds to purchase a set of fifteen bells ranging in size from 450 to 5000 pounds. The bells would be played both by a manual console in the tower and by a remote electric keyboard. By February the bells were being cast by the Meneely Company of Watervliet, New York. There would be, as planned, a chime of fifteen bells. The contract price for the bells was $22,500, including installation in the Campanile. Later sources indicate that the total bill was about $25,000. While plans remained for a remote, electrical keyboard, at least initially the bells would be played manually by a console in the tower. The College Eye published an illustration and a surprisingly detailed description of a console in March. Despite the relatively limited two octave range of the fifteen bells, college officials seemed to be assured that most music could be played on this chime. By mid-May 1926 the bells were ready to be shipped to Cedar Falls.
Construction did not move along as quickly as had been hoped. By June 1926 the tower was about two-thirds complete.
June 22, 1926.
At that time, the completion date was projected to be August. By July, the clock faces were in place and work was progressing on the belfry. The belfry floor itself was complete by late July. That floor, which would support the massive weight of the bells, was a concrete slab fourteen inches thick. It weighed fifteen tons. The bells were placed on timbers at ground level for inspection.
The chime of bells before mounting;
President Seerley at far right.
The remainder of the belfry work went quickly. In mid-September 1926, the Meneely Company mounted the bells in the belfry. The bells themselves were mounted in stationary positions; only the clappers moved. The bells were tuned and dedicated as follows:
- Bell 1--C--President
- Bell 2--D--Founders
- Bell 3--E--Citizens of Cedar Falls
- Bell 4--F--Schoolchildren of Iowa
- Bell 5--F#--Faculty
- Bell 6--G--Students and Alumni
- Bell 7--A--Our Wartime Heroes
- Bell 8--A#--Fathers and Mothers of Iowa
- Bell 9--B--Teachers in the Common Schools
- Bell 10--C--State Board of Education
- Bell 11--C#--Musical Organizations
- Bell 12--D--Dramatic Art
- Bell 13--E--Literary Societies
- Bell 14--F--Christian Organizations
- Bell 15--G--Athletic Activities
When the clock struck the Westminster change on the quarter hours, the bells dedicated to the President, the Schoolchildren of Iowa, the Faculty, and Students and Alumni would ring.
Program for first recital, 1926.
An Installation Program was scheduled for Sunday, September 19, 1926. The College Eye reported that 12,500 people, an enormous number, attended the program. Andrew Meneely, from the company that manufactured and installed the bells, performed a long concert of religious, folk, and patriotic music. He performed half of the concert on the manual console inside the Campanile and the second half on an electrical keyboard in the College Electrician's office. The music from the bells could be heard for blocks around campus.
View from Southwest; Commons in background, 1930s.
At that point, everything except the clock mechanism was in place. Apparently, shipping a large clock mechanism from New York to Iowa in those days was not a simple matter. Most of the mechanism arrived on campus in November 1926, but several parts were damaged sometime in the shipping process. Dudley Fasoldt made replacement parts and, in May 1927, drove from New York to Iowa with the most delicate pieces.
Dudley Fasoldt, left, prepares to start
the clock mechanism, May 30, 1927.
The four faces of the clock on the sides of the Campanile are seven feet across. The original wooden hands of the clocks were three and a half feet long. The bronze figures on the clock face are fifteen inches high.
The Campanile quickly took on its intended memorial and iconic status. On Armistice Day, November 11, 1926, just weeks after the structure was dedicated, the Cedar Falls American Legion Post presented a bronze tablet commemorating the eight ISTC men killed in World War I: Clifford Stevens, Charles Wesley Chapman, Jr., Henry Booth, Ernest Hansen, A. E. Justesen, Walter D. Koester, Dwight L. Strayer, and Einar Nielsen. This tablet was to be placed in the Campanile. Several years later, at the time of his retirement, a bronze medallion of President Seerley was placed in what was called "The Memorial Room" of the structure.
The Seerley Medallion, 1928.
In February 1927, President Seerley and the Campanile Committee sent "artistic reproductions", possibly retouched photographs, of the Campanile in winter to members of the Board of Education. The 1930 Teachers College exhibit at th