After the Fire….





13 Responses to Bevin Bell Factory Lost to Fire

  • Micheal Hankin says:

    Hello. I am. Sorry about the fire. How can I buy a. Fundraiser bell that. You are selling? How much and where do I send the money?

  • We’re a bunch of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with helpful info to paintings on. You have done an impressive task and our entire community will be thankful to you.

  • Atlee Yarrow says:

    On the idea of selling the factory bricks, it would be nice to display on a Connecticut oak board in a glass-like case with a brass plate with the company logo and name on the front. Maybe a short story on paper glued to the bottom or burned into the wood base.

  • Kathy Drajewicz says:

    Dear Matt,
    Quite a few years ago our local elementary school in Haddam, Ct. started a new tradition of ringing in when they first started kindergarden and ringing out at their graduation. It was my job as then Co-Chair of our Friends of HES Parent organization to find actual bells to give to the students to commerate their attendance at HES. I spent many summers on the lake in East Hampton and remembered the Belltown sign, it didn't take me long to find Bevin Brothers and my search for bells was over. I drove into the factory yard, went into the office, and felt like I had stepped back in time. I was given a tour on my first visit and felt like I had always known your people, it kept me coming back year after year getting bells for each class until all my children had graduated. it didn't make a difference that I was only buying maybe 40 bells, I was treated like I was buying hundreds.  I left specific instructions…contact numbers and directions to the factory upon my completion of involvement..the bells needed to continue.
    As I type this email I sit gazing on 3 bells in their place of honor in our family room, when I heard about the fire my first thought was for everyones safety and my second…oh no what is going to happen to the ringing out ceremony.  They were a very important part of my childrens sense of community and family, they couldn't wait for their turn to ring out holding their own bell.  I thank you again for making my life easier, for always making sure I had the bells I needed, and always being so pleasant to do buisness with. I wish you nothing but good luck in the rebuilding of you factory.
    Kathy Drajewicz

  • Jeffrey S. Bell says:

    Dear Matt,
    It is with profound sorrow to look upon this photo of Bevin Brothers. It's hard to visualize that within these walls a variety of activities once were conducted in casting a diverse range of small bells known throughout the country and world.
    There are no words to comfort such a devastating loss. My heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to your family, past and present employees and citizens of East Hampton.
    This appalling disaster not only has an enormous economical impact but it also bears the emotional and historical repercussions felt by the community and many others throughout the country. As a hand bell collector and researcher of Chatham's bel industry I feel the intense sorrow expressed by so many on this site.
    I'm proud to state that my hand bell collection has a number of bells known to have been produced by Bevin Brothers. Todate my collection consists of one hundred different bell configurations in which I believe 90% were manufactured in Chatham. My goal is to identify as many configurations as possible to their original manufacture. Should other collectors or historians share my interest please feel free to contact me at or call (352) 237-8374.
    As a side note; I see that the chimney is still standing. Im not sure if this chimney was built during Bevin's 1880 reconstruction period. If not, then it was erected in 1852 by John Gillett Hinckley (1811-1885 or 89) and the furnace section was designed by Abner G. Bevin. Mr. Hinckley was East Hampton's mason/mechanic and the son of Cyprian and Lydia (Bevin) Hinckley. He also built two, of the same design, for Buell and Veazey in 1852 and the other in 1853. in that year, be built one for J. S. Hall and East Hampton Bell Company's chimney in 1856. Another three were built in East Hampton to unknown manufactures in 1856, 57 and 1860.
    All my best,
    Jeffrey S. Bell

  • laurie says:

    i was so saddened by your loss. and i am disappointed in myself that i never went  to see the building before it was burned. if there are any photos of it available , i would love to see what it looked like.  we drove by yesterday and peeked thru the fence. what a lovely setting.  i'm so sorry that happened to you, and to the ppl and history of e. hampton.. i hope you are able to rebuild.

  • nancy barber peteja says:

    I am very sorry for your loss. It made me cry because a part of east hampton’s history is gone. I grew up in that town and I own an old fashioned school bell the teacher would ring by hand. I am very proud to own it. I have read the story of the sleigh bells….my father grew up on Clark Hill on the farm and they had sleigh bells!! Please keep the history of bell making alive. For all to enjoy! Best wishes.

  • Michael Near says:

    Dear Matt, 
    I am glad to see your web-site. I sent a small donation. I willl forward your web-site to others who may want to support AMERICAN business.All the best in the future.
    Make the DONATE button BIGGER!
    Michael Near
    Burbank, CA

  • Susan Wielgosh says:

    Many years ago I was very fortunate to have a tour of Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Company because I was so interested in the history of the Bevin Bells. I was so very sad to hear about the fire but thankful there were no injuries or loss of life.  Many prayers are going out to the entire Bevin Family!
    Everyday, in all of our lives, the human spirit is at work!  We all laugh and cry as life goes on….The resilience from all tragedy is an accomplishment of the amazing human spirit!  This past week since May 27th 2012 our Town of East Hampton, CT witnessed this first hand. The way I see this is a new beginning, 'BRINGING COMMUNITY TOGETHER" with a new revitalization in The Village Center, in our Town of East Hampton, CT and becoming a symbol of renewal in our country! The blessings are and will be endless….
    When Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Company is rebuilt this national landmark and historical national treasure will shine as a significant tourist attraction….until then we will still hear the bells ring loud and clear, in our hearts, as all the 'angels get their wings' because there is so much work to be done….

  • I live in New Jersey. On Sunday the phone calls and emails from friends, relatives and fellow collectors around the country started arriving here. Bill Jones, a mechanical bank collector from Connecticut was the first to tell me. I quickly checked the internet for confirmation. It was true. I called a friend in East Hampton, Jay Hansen to see if by any chance the office was saved. He got back to me with the news. It was all gone.
    The Bevins have been in the bell making business since 1832.They are famous for creating the bell used in the film "It's a wonderful Life," for the New York Sock Exchange bell, for bicycle bells, hand bells and sleigh bells. Their legacy goes much deeper. My focus onthe history of bell toys hasn't blinded me to the impact the Bevin family had on my narrow focus and the broader bell manufacturing industry.
    Many of the bell makers of East Hampton learned their trade in the Bevin factory. There was one patent for a bell toy by Isaac Bevin in 1876. Their focus was bells and not the bell toys. That does not mean Bevin was not important to bell toys. The mechanism for the bicycle bell showed up in many bell toys and toy telephones. Cross pollination of manufacturing knowledge, techniques and experience between Bevin and the other bell making shops was common. As just one small example, bell toy maker and bicycle saddle maker, John C. Wells, learned his trade at Bevin Bros.
    Bevin was the last survivor of an era of small bell making in East Hampton that started flourishing with the Barton introduction of the technique of making sleigh bells with the jinglet cast into the bell, saving the time consuming task of making the bell in two parts and welding it together. Many companies sprang up in East Hampton from that small inspired beginning. The Bevin Bros. Mfg. Co. starting with three brothers, Abner, Chauncey, and William, later adding one more, Philo, would become the largest and through frugality, innovation, and doggedness survived the many changes in the industry. Because of environmental regulations the cast brass bells of the 1800s were no longer made there when the company burned down. Stamped steel bells were being made there, a process that had originated in East Hampton at the N N Hill Brass Mfg. Co. in the late 1800s. Stanley Bevin had recently said he hoped to see the Bevin Manufacturing Company celebrate its 200th anniversary.
    The Bevin family propped up many of the bell toy makers when they were floundering in the early 1900s. They eventually owned Gong Bell. Gong Bell Mfg. Co. was shut down when the Bevin family decided it was no longer profitable to be in the bell toy making business, but if they had not helped that company in the early 1900s there would not have been another fifty years of bell toy making in East Hampton. The era of plastic toys, which Gong Bell had been slow to embrace, and foreign imports were blamed for the downfall of Gong Bell, though domestic completion was also fierce and probably equally responsible. Fisher Price was one of the few toy makers to weather the transitions. Competition was nothing new.  In the 1800s complaints by bell and bell toy makers of East Hampton to Congress imposed tariffs on imports to protect these industries.  Adapting to changing markets was also nothing new. During WWI no metal could be used on bell toys so the switch was made to wooden toys. Wood and lithographed paper would be a major component of later toys by Gong Bell.  Adversity was nothing new in this industry either. Numerous bell toy makers suffered fire losses and rebuilt. The Bevin factory suffered flooding and continued.
    I had always hoped to see the Bevin archives to see if there were documents related to Gong Bell, N.N. Hill Brass, Starr Bros. and the other bell toy makers. We’ll never know now what we’ve lost. I think I know what the people of Egypt felt when the Library at Alexandria was destroyed. Like the burned out buildings I feel hollow. It’s like knowing there’s someone that just died you had always hoped to know better.
    The Bevin family gave the land the museum sits upon to the Chatham Historical Society (CHS). Some of the items that had been in the office at Bevin were recently moved on loan to the CHS museum.  If the building had not recently been expanded the display of some of those items from Bevin Mfg. Co. would not have been possible. It’s a wonderful but small snapshot through a very small window to what has been lost.
    I had always hoped to see the archives of the Bevin bell factory. I’ve only seen the outside of the Bevin factory. According to my friend Jeff Bell they had a large repository of archives in the office building. I had tried to see the inside but Stanley Bevin only responded once to my calls and letters. He called me and said, “Watrous, I’m going to sue you!” He went on to tell me how he had been sleigh riding down the hill toward near the railroad toward the Watrous house on Watrous Street and broke his leg. I protested that I’m not related to the David W. Watrous who built that house. (He was one of the founders of the East Hampton Bell Company and later founded the Watrous Manufacturing Co.) I’m related to the Clifford M. Watrous that worked at Gong Bell. He replied simply, “You’re all related!” I thought he was wrong, but I’ve come to see how there is a lot of truth in what he said. It seemed everyone in East Hampton was related by only a few degrees of separation. One could also say we were all related by a shared history. It’s this relationship that makes the Bevin factory loss personal to so many.
    The Starr Bros. and  N N Hill factory buildings are the only bell toy maker factory buildings still standing relatively intact.  The residences of the founders of these enterprises and the workers now look out over vacant sites and remnants of where many other bell making shops once stood such as the East Hampton Bell Company. Without these companies the town would never have looked as it does today.
    Matt Bevin, who took over the reins of the company a few years ago recently told a reporter that he will try to make bells again in East Hampton, Belltown.  I wish him and the Bevin family and all the workers there success. Thinking of East Hampton the Belltown, without an ongoing bell making industry rings hollow. I hope the can-do Yankee ingenuity spirit lives on with a new generation of Bevins making bells. Matt Bevin captured the spirit so well, "This is Belltown Baby!"
    I've posted some picures and scans of post cards of the Bevin factory on my web site under the blogs tab:

  • Marie McConnell says:

    My prayers for you and your workers that you find a way to continue your operation in CT. If angels are getting their wings when a Bemin Bell rings then they will certainly help you to find a way to continue for the good of the workers and your community. Success is not measured just in dollars but in the goodness that surrounds the business. I think your business has that goodness.

  • russell h austin says:

    It is so good to hear that you care about your people . so many have become numbers in big companys that could careless. I wish there where more people like yourself.
    I wish you well. I look forward to the day when we again can hear a bevin bell in our ear.

  • Hi,
    As a CT Yankee now living in Norway I was heart broken to have heard about the fire. We have an office in Mystic CT and would be happy to have you use our video conferencing services without charge if needed either at our location where you can also perhaps host a fundraiser or via our services.

    Anyway…we are onboard to help.

    Evan J. Andriopoulos

Leave a Reply to Kathy Drajewicz Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>