(Staff photo by Renee Bruck/bruck@madisoncourier.com)
(Staff photo by Renee Bruck/bruck@madisoncourier.com)
The Jefferson County Courthouse received a present of its own just before the holidays this year - the dedication of the recently completed bell display.

Jefferson County Commissioners dedicated the bell during their last meeting of the year Tuesday night by honoring several people who helped to complete the project.

The display - more than a year in the making - features an open-air shelter to protect the bell from weather, a wrought iron gate around the shelter and, still to come, a bronze plaque explaining the bell's significance.

The plaque, that includes the history of the "Old Courthouse Treasure," will be installed at a later date.

According to the plaque, the bell was cast in 1864 by the G.W. Coffin & Co. at the Buckeye Foundry in Cincinnati, Commissioner Tom Pietrykowski said Tuesday.

It is tuned to the musical note "E."

The Courthouse fire in May 2009 caused significant damage to the building, including the cupola. The bell, weighing about 3,100 pounds, fell into the third floor and had considerable damage.

But thanks to the efforts of 18 area volunteer fire departments, the bell survived the devastating fire.

Although a modern chime system was installed when the Courthouse was rebuilt, the bell was restored by workers in 2011 with sanders, buffers and special compounds.

The bell was placed on display for the public to see on the southwest lawn of the Courthouse during the Courthouse rededication ceremony in August 2011.

Commissioners announced plans for the display to be built by a class from Madison Consolidated High School during an Oct. 2013 meeting, and work on the display structure was completed earlier this year. The project was made possible through a grant from the Madison-Jefferson County Community Foundation, Commissioner Mark Cash said.

During the dedication Tuesday, commissioners honored Madison Consolidated Schools teacher Dave Bear and two building trades classes that designed and built the open-air structure with a plaque.

Commissioners also honored Doug Helton and Bobby Adams with Madison Ironworks for their help in building and installing iron fencing around the bell and structure, plus moving the bell to its new home.

"I think (the bell) will be out there for many generations to come," Cash said.