Mayflower Meetinghouse Project: Tower Bells Restoration

At the center of Town Square sits the National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse, formerly known as the First Parish Church of Plymouth. The General Society of Mayflower Descendants, more commonly known as the Mayflower Society, took over control of the building in 2017 when then-Governor General Lea Filson was approached by Plymouth Select Board chair Kenneth Tavares, who explained that the historic landmark was in jeopardy of being torn down. The Mayflower Society, whose membership can all trace their lineage back to at least one passenger who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620, stepped in to make certain the building was preserved, restored and protected. Plans to turn it into a visitation and education center were created and work began on the structure in 2019.  However, the COVID pandemic caused supply chain issues, slowed work to a crawl and put a damper on fundraising efforts.

With much of those woes behind them, however, the Mayflower Society has resumed restoration work in earnest.  Phase One, which involved installing a new elevator (among other things), has been completed. Phase Two will soon commence on installing a new entranceway on the south side of the building. When all of the structural work is finished, an imaginative and exciting series of visitor experiences, including an IMAX movie that allows the guest to experience what it might have been like while being aboard the Mayflower, will be installed.  The location will be a hub for tourists coming to Plymouth and will help instruct and inform people coming to Plymouth about the Mayflower passengers.

As part of the aforementioned second phase, a 10 bell chime that is part of the building will be restored. These bells, forged by the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, New York, has been contracted to be refurbished under the talents of the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. Here is a backstory on the company that forged these bells.

In 1826, Andrew Meneely built a foundry in West Troy (now known as Watervliet), New York, in the Hudson Valley. Meneely was a silversmith by trade and used his knowledge of alchemy to mix copper, tin and molten heat to produce bells of exceptional beauty and sound. Meneely had apprenticed at age 15 under Julius Hanks, whose father worked with Paul Revere, and Nancy Hanks (who later became mother to Abraham Lincoln). Meneely went into business with Julius Hanks’ son Horatio, where they operated a foundry that sold equipment to the builders of the Erie Canal. After the canal was completed, Meneely returned to West Troy and managed one of the Hanks’ family’s foundries, which manufactured bells, clocks and engineering instruments.  In 1836, Meneely purchased the building and put his name on the business. It became one of the largest and most celebrated foundries in the land, earning an international reputation for quality. Meneely tinkered with the sound quality of his bells, always looking for improvements. His sons took over the business and it continued as a family run company until 1951. (Meneely’s two eldest sons, Edwin and George, carried on with the family business. When a third son, Clinton Hanks Meneely, returned from the Civil War, he was not invited to join the company, so he started a rival forge instead).

The Meneely Bell Company was so renowned that their bells can be found on every continent on Earth, except for Antarctica. They are located in churches, college campuses, and private businesses— even in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower in New York City. In 1876, the Meneely Bell Company cast a replacement for the original Liberty Bell that hangs in Philadelphia. It was made much larger than the original, weighing in at 13,000 lbs.—a thousand pounds for each of the original thirteen colonies.

The bells for the Mayflower Meetinghouse were forged and installed in 1921. The Verdin Company, which will be doing the restoration work on these chimes,  was started in 1842, founded by two brothers who emigrated from Alsace, France. Verdin is a six-generation family owned business that is known as the industry leader in bell restoration. The Verdin Company has created over 55,000 bell installations across the United States. They are the only company in the world with a traveling bell foundry, and has a stellar reputation for innovation in bell repair.

Verdin’s repair team will travel to Plymouth and begin an extensive process to refurbish, repair and restore the bells, the wood frame, the hardware, the bell pads, and all of the various parts (metal, wood and leather) that constitute the chimes. When completed, the action and playability of the chimes will be dramatically improved. Hardware that has been exposed to rust and corrosion due to its proximity to the ocean breezes will be replaced, and springs will be restored. Some of the chimes will be brought back to Cincinnati to be worked on, and then brought back to Plymouth to be reinstalled. The project should take approximately six months to complete. When it’s done, the chimes will be able to play more than 200 songs and will have a master control system that will allow it to be played remotely, allowing audiences to enjoy a wide range of musical choices.

It is hoped that the National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse will be allowed to open for tours of the inside sanctuary this summer.  Details will follow regarding that. When it opens, we hope that many locals will come inside to see this great landmark of the town, and lay witness to the work being done to turn it into a great educational facility. 

If you would like to donate to contribute to the cost of the bell restoration, please email:

The Governor General’s 1620 Club funds will be earmarked as part of this project as well. People who want to join the 1620 Club can go to: