Happy Birthday Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower!

Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower

While many UNC students and staff will be spending the 26th at home or with relatives, recovering from a two-day bender of turkey dinner and leftovers, the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower will be turning a ripe 80.

Morehead (right) and Patterson.

Dedicated and first rung on Thanksgiving Day, 1931, the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower is named for its donors John Motley Morehead, Class of 1891, and Rufus Lenoir Patterson II, founder of the American Machine and Foundry Company (whose “AMF” logo you’d recognize if you’ve ever been bowling).

Some say that Morehead originally wanted to donate a library, but was beaten to it by Louis Wilson, whose Wilson Library (for which he raised the capital) houses the University Archives along with UNC’s other special collections. But according to Jack Hillard, Morehead had been trying to donate a bell tower for years and “offered to pay for a bell tower on top of the library, but University Librarian Louis Round Wilson had already decided that ‘his’ building would be domed.”

Regardless, the rumor has it that Morehead got his revenge on Wilson by building the bell tower such that, from a certain vantage on Polk Place, the tower’s belfry serves as a dunce cap for Wilson or at least looks like Morehead got his bell tower on top of Wilson’s library after all.

Photograph of Wilson Library taken from South Building, mid-1930s.