Maintenance Committee – Bell Restoration

The year was 1892. Mrs. Anna Pitcher initiated an effort to mark the route of California’s first highway, El Camino Real (Royal Highway or Kings Highway), the highway from San Diego to Sonoma linking 21 missions founded by Father Junipero Serra.

Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes and the California Federation of Women’s Clubs adopted the initiative and decided to mark the route with distinctive bells. Mrs. Forbes designed the 85 pound cast iron bells. The bell has the dates 1796 and 1906 and A.S.C. Forbes copyright notice. The 1796 date refers to the founding of the first mission and the 1906 to the placement of the first bell. The first bell was unveiled in 1906 at the Plaza Church near Olvera Street in Los Angeles.

Between the years of 1906 and 1913 the installation of 450 bells marked the route of the original highway. Due to relocation and rerouting of the highway, most of the original 450 bells had disappeared by 1933 when the State of California took over maintenance of the bells. In 1960 the State began a restoration program, installing new bells that are fabricated using the original 1906 molds. Dale Baltimore, founder and first president of the Niguel Shores Men’s Club, owned one of the original bells.

In memory of Dale and Helen Baltimore, the Baltimore family gave the bell to Niguel Shores in 1995. It was first installed by the old club house and later moved to its present location near the tennis courts.

2013 is the centennial year for the bell. There is a plaque on the supporting pipe to commemorate its first installation in 1913. After 100 years, the old bell was in need of a little refurbishment. The Maintenance Department wanted the bell to celebrate its one hundredth birthday with a fresh new look.

The bell and its support pipes were brought to the maintenance shop where several layers of paint were removed. The plaques, which were difficult to read, were acid washed and polished several times and then waxed with a special monument wax. George Cooley even worked the small details with an electric tooth brush. Some welding repair was necesary on the support pipe. The original paint specification was researched and found to be available from Dunn-Edwards. A professional painter was hired to apply the paint.

The bell has been reinstalled by the tennis courts, looking as good as new and ready for another hundred years. Come by and wish our community’s little bit of history a happy one hundredth birthday.

—Jack Christiansen


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