Denny Chimes, an enduring symbol of Alabama’s first university, was erected in 1929 to honor President George H. Denny, under whose leadership The University of Alabama gained national prominence.
The idea of building a bell tower was first suggested as a memorial to honor the university students who had given their lives in WWI, but funds were not available, so the project was dropped. However, ten years later, after hearing president Denny was contemplating leaving UA to go back to Virginia, Jerome M. Britchey and his classmates started a campaign to erect the tower in his honor. Virginia bricks were used in honor of Denny’s native state, but Alabama limestone was used for the rest of the structure.
The original bells were 27 two-octave, tubular bells which rang on the quarter hour for sixteen years until 1945 when they were replaced with an electric system that lasted until 1966. After that 305 small bells were installed on the first floor and an amplification system was placed on the top. An organ was set up inside and a carilloneur would at times come and play songs.
The 25 bells were made in 1986 and each is named in honor of a specific person. A plaque on the outside of the structure details the names of the bells. In 2009 the miniature chimes in the carillon were replaced by a digital system. Around the base of the tower is the Alabama football captains walk of fame, which bears hand and foot impressions of each captain from Crimson Tide teams dating back to the 1940s.
Courtesy of the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library unless otherwise noted.
Information collected from The University of Alabama : a guide to the campus by Robert Oliver Mellown (Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, c1988), and the Crimson White. Historical images are courtesy of the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, The University of Alabama and are reproduced with permission.