Title

Exhibit - Beaumont Tower

The most iconic symbol of MSU, Beaumont Tower stands within the “Sacred Space” and one campus legend claims that you were not officially a Spartan until you are kissed in the shadows of Beaumont Tower at midnight.

College Hall
Before Beaumont Tower was built, another building stood in its place.  The first building built on campus was College Hall, the first building in the country that was dedicated to the scientific education of agriculture and the original classroom for the first students of MSU.  This building that would later be part of the official MSU seal, unfortunately, would not stand forever.  College Hall’s foundation was terribly built, even including a tree stump that was part of one of the corners.  The walls were hollow and built with soft bricks.  At one point, M.A.C. was thinking they could revamp College Hall as the new Union building, but when the poor materials were discovered, construction was halted.   Early in the morning on August 12, 1918, two walls of College Hall gave way and came crashing down.  Later that week, the rest of the building was razed.

During this time, World War I was going on and MSU had military ties.  In its place, where the first building dedicated to the science of agriculture once stood was an artillery shed.  This upset numerous alumni that an artillery shed was standing on the grounds of such a great building.  One such alumnus that took offense to what he saw was John Beaumont.

Construction of Beaumont Tower
John Beaumont was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on July 20, 1858.  He came to Michigan in 1875 and graduated from M.A.C. in 1882.  After studying law under private tutors, he was admitted to the bar in Saginaw in 1884.  Two years later, he began practicing law in Detroit.  This would lead to a prestigious career and senior membership at the firm of Beaumont, Smith, and Harris.  He also was a member of the State Board of Agriculture from 1912 to 1924.  John married his wife, Alice Lord Burrows, in 1899.  They had no children.

After seeing the treatment of the site of College Hall being used to house artillery, something had to be done.  At the time, with the collapse of College Hall and two dormitories that caught fire, the college was looking to build new buildings.  Plans were being presented to place new buildings inside the Campus Circle.  Even back in 1906, the idea of the “Sacred Space” to keep the Campus Circle free of buildings was presented.  Once again, that sentiment was pushed forward with a “Save the Circle” campaign and Beaumont presented his idea of a memorial tower to College Hall to replace the artillery shed.  The tower would sit on the highest part of the circle and be part of the skyline on North campus.  With that plan, the idea to build other buildings in the “Sacred Space” was discarded.

The construction of Beaumont Tower began in 1927 and was completed a year later in 1928.  The tower is 104.67 feet tall at its highest spire.  The sculpture on the tower is that of a Sower with an inscription that reads, “Whatsoever a Man Soweth.”  The Sower is a dedication to College Hall and the agricultural education that was first taught on campus.  The dedication ceremony took place on June 22, 1929.  John Beaumont could not attend the dedication due to an illness, so his friend the Honorable William L. Carpenter spoke about the gift on his behalf.  Mr. Beaumont would only see his gift one time only and it was during his last visit to campus in 1937.  Even though he only saw the tower one time, he did listen to the radio whenever the bells were supposed to be broadcasted.

Beaumont Tower
At the time of dedication, there were only ten bells in the tower, making it just a chime.  The tower was originally supported by the Athletic Department with the first carillounneur being Russell Daubert, an athletic trainer and swimming coach.  The tower fell under the Athletic Department because it was hoped that the music would help promote MSU spirit in the athletes.  Mr. Daubert had such limited training that he was only able to play very simple melodies.  It was also quickly discovered that the bells did not have the range to play MSU’s alma mater song.  A year later in 1930, three more bells were added to help provide a greater range for the MSU song.  In 1935, ten more bells were added which made the instrument no longer a chime but a carillon.

In 1941, the jurisdiction of the tower was passed from the Athletic Department to the MSU School of Music.  The music director approached Wendell Westcott to see if he would be the new part time carillonneur, since Westcott was a piano instructor and played the organ for one of the local churches.  Wescott accepted the offer and found that he enjoyed playing the carillon.  In 1956, Wescott attended the Royal Carillon School in Mechelin, Belgium, to get an advanced degree in the carillon.  When he graduated, he received his degree with highest honors, the first person to receive such a degree in the school’s history.

Under Wescott’s direction, he set out to make Beaumont Tower one of the best carillons in the country.  Working with the MSU Development Fund, Wescott was able to see the bells grow.  In 1950, fourteen bells were added, six bells in 1952, and four bells in 1957.  This brought the total number of bells to forty-seven and increased the carillon to four octaves.  With all the bells, Wescott could now do a full range of songs.

The Silence and Joyful Resounding of Beaumont Tower
As the years passed, Wescott continued to perform numerous concerts at Beaumont Tower, but the tower was falling into disrepair.  Springs were breaking, clappers were flattening out, and cables and beams were starting to rust out.  In 1971, the tower was silent for five months because a spring came loose, which would not allow the bells to ring properly.

The longest that the carillon would be silent was from 1987 to 1996, because the bells were disconnected due to the wear and tear of the system.  In 1988, a report was submitted to the Provost office with the cost and repairs.  With the total cost, repairs would not take place until 1995 because the Provost office wanted to seek private sources to make donations.  The Michigan State’s board of trustees approved more than $500,000 to renovate the tower in 1995.  $155,000 came from the university discretionary fund, $128,000 combined from the Capital Campaign and from the 1989 class gift, $100,000 from the Akers Trust, and $130,000 from the infrastructure/technology fund.

For the project, numerous things were repaired or replaced.  The tower itself was repaired, which included repainting the tower structure, updating the surrounding landscape, and building a handicapped-accessible entrance to the first floor entrance.  Along with that, the clock numbers, hands, and clock mechanisms were replaced.  Also, two new bells were added, twenty bells were replaced, and the bottom twenty-seven bells were wired for partial automation.  All of the bells were removed and reattached in a new order that allows for more space.  There are now a total of forty-nine bells, with the bells ranging in weight from fifteen pounds to 2.5 tons.  The rededication ceremony of the Beaumont Tower bells took place on May 3, 1996.

Today, the bells play the Westminster Quarters every fifteen minutes during the day and play MSU Shadows daily by use of the automated computer.  Check the MSU School of Music website for carillon performances, special tours, and events.

Tower Guard
The only group on campus that holds keys to Beaumont Tower is the Tower Guard.  Tower Guard was founded in 1934 by the wife of former MSU president Robert Shaw, May Shaw.  It was originally an all-female honor society that was formed as a service oriented organization that would help to serve the needs of the visually impaired students on campus.  When the group was originally formed, there were about twenty to twenty-five members, so the meetings were held on the second floor of Beaumont Tower.  With roughly eighty members now, the group is too large to meet in the tower.  Instead, only the officers will still meet in the historic tower.

Sources Cited
History of Beaumont Tower and the MSU Carillon. College of Music. http://www.music.msu.edu/carillon/history-of-beaumont-tower-and-the-carillon

Lautner, Harold (1977). From an oak opening: A record of the development of the campus park of Michigan State University, 1855-1969. Volume I, 1855-1945. East Lansing, Mich.

Kuhn, Madison (1955). Michigan state: The first hundred years, 1855-1955. East Lansing, Mich: Michigan State University Press.

“Memorial Tower Dedicatory Program Impressive,” from the M.A.C. Record, July 1929, Vol. 34 No. 11, Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Michigan State University. Information Files. Beaumont Tower/Carillon. Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Michigan State University. Information Files. Buildings. College Hall. Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Rededication of the Beaumont Tower Bells, 3 May 1996, Box 5396, Folder 25, Lana Dart Papers, UA 17.263, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities. https://www.rcpd.msu.edu/programs/towerguard.

Speech for Dedication of Beaumont Tower, 22 June 1929, Box 2, Folder 6, William L. Carpenter Papers, 00015, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan. 

Thomas, David (2008). Michigan state college: John Hannah and the creation of a world university, 1926-1969. East Lansing, Mich: Michigan State University Press.

Tower Guard. https://www.msu.edu/~towergrd/.

University Carilloneurs. School of Music. http://www.music.msu.edu/carillon/university-carilloneurs

Exhibit written by Jennie Russell, November 2015

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