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Dedication to history: Clermont cuts ribbon on bell tower
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Clermont Historical Society president Sandra Cantrell cuts the ribbon during the dedication ceremony for the newly erected bell tower plaza in Clermont, on Oct. 10, 2017. - photo by David Barnes

BY KAYLA ELDER

kelder@gainesvilletimes.com

Back on the grounds for which it was created, a school bell from the 1900s stands tall in its brick tower overlooking the new plaza in Clermont.

Celebrating its return, the Clermont Historical Society held a dedication ceremony Tuesday for residents to marvel in its grandeur and commemorate the town’s history.

“Tonight we are excited to finally finish our project,” said Sandra Cantrell, Historical Society president.

About 50 residents celebrated the ribbon cutting, including Historical Society members, Mayor James Nix and town council members. 

For more than a century, the site served as an educational hub. The earliest known school, Concord Academy, initially began serving the community in the late 1800s as an extension of Concord Baptist Church, which is located across the street.

In 1901, the Chattahoochee School was established offering boarding in the nearby dormitory. The cornerstone was from the original dormitory built in 1905, according to the Clermont Historical Society.

The last school building was constructed in 1936 as part of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works. This brick school building housed 12 grades as the Clermont School until 1957 when North Hall High School opened. Clermont School continued as an elementary school for more than 20 years.

“Many of you remember these schools...you attended school here or had family members go to school here,” Cantrell said.

This school bell was purchased about 1910, serving the schools until the last schoolhouse was demolished in 1982. The Clermont Historical Society built the tower to house the school bell for the community.

“The school bell was actually rescued out of a scrap metal pile when the school was being demolished. A couple of my uncles rescued that bell and stored it at the church across the street for a number of years,” Cantrell said.

The society is using engraved pavers and plaques to help pay for the materials.

“We had many interested donors and a number of sponsors who helped us build this beautiful structure. The bell is well over 100 years old,” Cantrell said.

The Clermont Town Hall continues to sell engraved bricks for the community to buy, as well as sponsorships. For more information call 770-983-7568.

The plaza also features a flag pole from the schoolhouse and will include park benches.

The Town of Clermont, formerly Dip, was chartered by the state of Georgia in 1913. To commemorate the centennial and the forthcoming bicentennial, members of the Clermont Historical Society will bury a time capsule to be opened in 2113.

“The Clermont Historical Society wishes to give this plaza and bell tower as a gift to the community,” Cantrell said. “We really appreciate all that took part in this because it takes a lot of different people to make a project like this happen.”

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