Standing high within the beauty of Byrd Park in Richmond’s West End, visible from various driveways of the city, is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first memorial to Virginians who served in World War I: The Carillon. An illustrious landmark, this campinale is a beloved gathering area for local residents and visitors.
In 1924, several years after the end of the First World War, the General Assembly formed the World War Memorial Commission to determine the best way to honor those men and women. The City of Richmond donated an area of Byrd Park, located at the southern end of Blanton Avenue. After a lot of public discussion, which changed the initial proposal, construction on the tower began in 1931. It was completed in 1932.
On October 15, 1932, The Carillon was formally dedicated to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Ralph Adams Cram, a noted Boston architect, had designed the structure, which stands at 240 feet. Cram was a favorite architect to the city, as he had also designed several buildings at the University of Richmond, which featured his trademark Gothic style. The bell instrument was designed by Taylor’s Bell Foundry, the world’s largest bell foundry. Known at the time of The Carillon’s construction as John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd, this company also cast Great Britain’s largest bell in St. Paul’s Cathedral of London.
At set intervals, the bells chime melodic patriotic hymns which sound throughout the park. Concerts at the Carillon usually take place on patriotic holidays, such as Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day and Labor Day. Most notably is the Fourth of July celebration with fireworks and the Richmond Concert Band. In the spring, the Carillon Civic Association hosts the renowned “Arts in the Park”, which helps to introduce the work of many national artists and artisans to the area.
The tower is a welcoming presence in the park and to its neighborhood residents. At the edge of a grass mall are crepe myrtles donated by the James River Garden Club. Other trees line the mall and the long, brick walkway. Quaint marble benches commemorate the gesture of 1937.
Prominently and sacredly featured is the grand star leading to the front of the Carillon which was laid in honor of the Gold Star Mothers. Their sons and daughters served from 1917 to 1918.
Visitors are welcome to climb the steps of the tower. Once visitors get closer, they will notice the ornate cast of the Virginia seal. Those marble steps lead to the imposing balcony which provides a dramatic panoramic view of the park and neighborhood. Lined by a stylish balustrade, the balcony allows one to take in the striking details much more closely as well as the opportunity to rest and take in the breathtaking view of the park from one of the benches along the walls.
Behind the tower is the Ha’Penny Stagewhere movies and plays are held. Also, next to the tower is the beloved Dogwood Dell Amphitheatre, where many concerts and plays are performed. After World War II, the annual Christmas production of “The Nativity” began on the steps of The Carillon; each year it is held on December 23rd at 7:00 p.m.
This coming Fourth of July, bring your picnic basket, blanket, and/or folding chairs and enjoy the Independence Day celebration, featuring music by the Richmond Concert Band and fireworks, all for free! Events begin at 6:00 p.m.
Reposted from my blog, "Front Porch, Sweet Tea, and A Pile of Books".