Old City Exchange Bell in Savannah, GA
The Bell was constructed in 1802 and hung in the bell tower of the City Exchange Building on Bay Street. The bell now hangs in a replica steeple located just east of City Hall on Bay Street. The Bell is thought to be the oldest bell in the state.
The bell was used to signal all important occasions, but principally in case of fire, to announce council meetings, and the closing time of businesses. The replica bell tower, in which the Exchange bell hangs, is a memorial to Mabel Clair Speth Hand, first president of the Pilot Club of Savannah (1932-4) and president of Pilot International (1935-6).
After the City Exchange burned down in the great fire of 1796, a new City Exchange building (1799-1802) was constructed by a joint stock company, with the city as one of the chief stockholders (until 1812, the seat of city government was the filature on Reynolds Square, at Abercorn and St. Julian). In 1802, Exchange trustee and alderman Robert Bolton was authorized by City Council to import a bell and eight-day clock to place in the Exchange steeple. It was November 14, 1803, before the clock and bell were received. The cost was $990.63 for both clock and bell. A watchman was stationed in the cupola; he was to ring the Exchange bell to signal the location of fires. In 1804, a resolution of council ordered the ringing of the bell to signal closing time for business. The bell was also rung to announce meetings of council, to signal the arrival by ship of important dignitaries, and on occasions of great importance to the general public.
Shortly after the turn of the century, the old City Exchange was razed to erect a new City Hall in the same location. The Exchange Bell was acquired by the Rourke Iron Works, where it hung until 1940, when the tower holding the bell came down in a hurricane. Walter L. Mingledorff acquired it, and gave it to the Chamber of Commerce. It was kept at the Dixie Machine Works until a replica of the old Exchange belfry was constructed on Bay Street, just east of the old Cotton Exchange building, which became the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce.
The replica bell tower was dedicated on February 26, 1957, to Mable Clair Speth Hand, a prominent leader in the Pilot Club, as a memorial by her club members.