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Your View: The saga of a bell tower

Your View: The saga of a bell tower

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Fire Station #2 was to be demolished. Contracts had been signed, equipment moved in, and signs posted by the time the City Council was to convene again. During the public comments point on the agenda, many residents voiced their disapproval of the destruction of yet another of Hanford's iconic landmarks. But by this time it was too late to change course. By the end of the week, the fire station would be gone.

After the City Council had adjourned, the curator of the Carnegie Museum approached the city manager and requested that the bell tower be preserved by moving it to the the museum grounds. He approved the measure, and the museum's foundation funded the move. The fire station was gone, with nothing but memories to give testimony to our history. But one artifact had been preserved to honor the building that had served the brave heroes of the Hanford Fire Department.

There had been little time to decide where this historic artifact was to be placed. The most practical and least costly location in front of the museum was chosen and sand was moved in to provide a level and supportive bed for this artifact.

The next week the city planner, having received a complaint, informed the curator that she would have to file for a permit for having a “structure” on the museum grounds and that this “structure” would have to be moved to the back. The curator complied by requesting a permit.

At a subsequent meeting of the City Council, the request for permit was submitted for approval. During public comments the curator presented her case.

The city planner then requested that the permit be denied because the Carnegie Museum is registered on the National Register of Historic Buildings and certain rules regarding any improvements to the building or the property must conform to the architectural style of the original structure. The museum was built in the Romanesque style and the bell tower in the Art Deco style.

The City Council then decided that the bell tower be removed from the property and put in storage until some unknown date when a suitable location could be found. Further, the foundation would be recompensed for the cost of the initial move.

The critical factor in all this folderol, is this: Is the bell tower an artifact or is it a structure? The legal definition of a structure is defined as “anything constructed or erected with a fixed location on the ground.” The legal definition of an artifact is “an object made by a human being, typically an item of cultural or historical interest.” The tower is nothing more than a square platform 7-feet-by-7-feet with an 8-foot arch supported by diagonal braces. It not affixed to the ground in any way. It was not constructed on this site, but was placed at this location.

Jeff Porterfield is a resident of Hanford.

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