No one seems to know its history, but the 200-pound cast iron bell that sat in the basement of Birchwood's village hall for years now has a place of prominence.

The bell's return is the result of an Eagle Scout project by David Doughty, a White Bear Lake Area High School senior who belongs to Troop 434 out of Redeemer Lutheran Church.

With some expert help from a few resident volunteers and fellow Scouts, Doughty's mission to build a tower came to a successful finish Aug. 22 when the antique bell was ceremoniously rung.

Mayor Mary Wingfield was there, along with residents Gene Ruehle, who helped pitch the idea, John Lund, Andy Sorenson and engineer Bill Becklin, who donated time and skills to the project.

The mayor thinks the bell may have been used as a civil defense warning system back in the day, but she isn't sure. “It will be nice to pull it out of mothballs and display it as part of our heritage,” Wingfield said as the six-month project commenced.

Doughty heard about the bell tower from Ruehle while ushering at church one Sunday. He thought the community service project, required for the Eagle rank, had merit.

So he and Ruehle scouted tower designs at White Bear Boat Works and with some modifications, came up with a blueprint.

The hardest part, Doughty said: “Getting in touch with people and getting everyone on the same page with the same ideas.”

Carpentry isn't a future career goal, but engineering might be, only the chemical kind, said the soon-to-be Eagle Scout. He's thinking the University of Minnesota-Duluth next year as his college of choice.

Asked if he's proud of the project, the 17-year-old replied, “Yes, definitely. It turned out like I'd hoped.”

Funding for the $1,500 project is by way of private donations, similar to the community warming house built in Birchwood in 2013. The White Bear Lake American Legion has donated $125, according to Wingfield, which puts the fundraising goal at the halfway point. The tax-deductible donation can be mailed to the city administrator, 207 Birchwood Ave., Birchwood, MN 55110.


Debra Neutkens

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