McFarland Memorial Bell Tower

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An architectural rendering of the McFarland Memorial Bell Tower. Large version.
The "Eye of Sauron" hanging from the unfinished McFarland Memorial Bell Tower. Photo courtesy of Orthogonal Photography.

The McFarland Memorial Bell Tower is a 185-foot tall carillon bell tower on the South Quad of the Urbana-Champaign campus. Its construction is now finished and is a part of the Campus Master Plan. The tower does not replace Altgeld Hall as the primary bell tower, as both ring in unison.



The tower started as a renovation project for Altgeld Hall that had been in planning since at least 1998, but that project was abandoned after renovation for Altgeld Hall wasn't deemed possible.

Funding for the project came from H. Richard McFarland, a 1952 alumnus of the College of Agriculture. McFarland and his late wife, Sarah "Sally" McFarland, wanted to donate funding to the construction of a Presbyterian chapel on campus. After the plans never materialized and McFarland's wife died of ovarian cancer in 2003, he donated $1.5 million to the tower's construction. The tower was named after Sally McFarland.

McFarland previously donated money to the construction of the ACES library, and he contributes two scholarships each year to students with a farm background.

The tower will be here "150 years from now because it can stand the test of time," according to Don Kojich, associate vice president for marketing and communications for the University of Illinois Foundation.

The plans for a freestanding tower in the South Quad near Mumford House have actually existed in campus plans as far back as 1913. The tower continues to show up in plans throughout the 1920's. The original sketch of what the tower would look like looks more like Big Ben of Parliament than the more modern designed tower that now exists. Originally the tower was to be a clock tower but University Chime Master of 37 years, Albert E. Marien, had always dreamed of the acquisition of a carillon (a set of 23 bells or more that are chromatically matched that are playable from a keyboard).


The tower is home to 49 bells that were originally planned to replace the old ones at Altgeld Hall but were instead used for the new tower. The bells were cast in the Netherlands. They are playable by a piano-style keyboard, but have come pre-programmed to play more than 500 songs.

"Eye of Sauron" prank

Presumably a number of students hung a replica of the "Eye of Sauron" in the early hours of Saturday, September 20, 2008. The eye is the symbol of the manifestation of evil and oppression in J.R.R. Tolkien's science fiction/fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. According to the novel:

"The Eye: that horrible growing sense of a hostile will that strove with great power to pierce all shadows of cloud, and earth, and flesh, and to see you: to pin you under its deadly gaze, naked, immovable."

Skip Frost, acting Assistant Chief of University Police, said of the eye: "It's actually pretty cute." The suspects were eventually caught, but no official disciplinary action was taken.