Centralia, Illinois, a town of just over 9,000 people here in Clinton County, seems an unlikely place to find one of the ten largest bell towers in the world. But aren’t we lucky it’s here!
The initial push to have a town carillon began in 1957, but it was the generous endowment of William V. Joy, the former editor and publisher of the Centralia Sentinel—and a huge bell enthusiast—that assured the future of the Centralia Carillon. The 165-foot tall concrete structure consists of 65 bells that were cast in Annecy, France. The largest bell, dubbed Big Tom, has a “G” pitch and is 79.5 inches in diameter, weighing 11, 000 pounds. The smallest bell, pitched “C”, has a diameter of eight inches and weighs 20 pounds. The Carillon’s total bell weight is an impressive 61,312 pounds, making it one of the heaviest instruments in the world.
The bells sit atop the Carillon tower and to play them, a professional carillonist must climb up 173 stairs. Tours, which include a brief history of the Carillon and a climb up the tower, are available April through September with a reservation. At the base of the tower is a small, but informative museum.
The Centralia Carillon offers weekly concerts at noon on Wednesdays, Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., and Fridays at noon and 7:00 p.m. There is also a special summer concert series which is listed during the season on the Carillon website. Visitors can enjoy the concerts in the surrounding tower park, which also houses a delightful musical fountain that “dances” to the music of the bells.
Carillon Offices are located one block south of Carillon Park
104 South Elm Street, Centralia, IL
Tours: April through September by appointment only
Clinton County is full of little—and big!—gems like this. One more reason to come for a visit!