MARIETTA — It was a crowning achievement.
First Baptist Church of Marietta raised a bell tower atop its building Saturday 60 years after its descent.
Those near Marietta Square Saturday morning were met with caution tape blocking off a section of Church Street. Guests patronizing The Third Door got brunch with front row seats to the show, with cranes and scaffolding meeting the direct view of those dining on the sidewalk.
Members of the church gathered on Church Street for the momentous occasion.
“We have waited a long time to see this,” said Bettie Sander of Marietta. “We could not have asked for anything nicer.”
Sander has been a member of the church for 60 years. She said a replacement tower has been discussed since she first arrived in the area in 1962, the same year the original bell tower came down.
The church opened its doors in 1835, occupying different locations until settling at 148 Church St. in 1897. The church was crowned with a bell tower for its first 65 years at that location.
But due to rotting wood and a weakening foundation, the tower was taken down, according to Lynn Wigington, member of the church and chair of the property committee. Wigington said the church decided years ago that improvements were needed.
“We wanted to figure out what could be done to the exterior of the church,” Wigington said.
Justin O’Dell, who chairs the church’s Board of Deacons, called the new tower the “proverbial icing on the cake” of a larger capital improvement project that began in late 2019 and saw more than $5 million raised for church renovations.
“Now, to be able to have bells ring on Easter morning, to have bells ring on Christmas morning, that’s a great thing for both the congregation and the community,” O’Dell previously told the MDJ.
The tower portion of the renovation took about a year from start to finish, including conceptualizing the design and screening for historical purposes to make sure the replacement fit the specifications of the original, according to Don Dorsey, church member and architect on the project.
The new bell tower has a carillon and four faux bells, according to Wigington. The tower project itself cost just under $750,000, paid for with funds donated by the community, with an anonymous donor contributing an unknown amount matched up to $500,000.
The church renovation is expected to take another three months to be fully completed.