Make your home page

Touring Indy’s Treasures: Inside the Scottish Rite Cathedral bell tower

The Indianapolis area is home to a number of “treasures” — interesting places, museums, and landmarks that make Indy special. Join News 8’s Hanna Mordoh on a tour of Indy’s treasures.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — People passing by the Scottish Rite Cathedral on North Meridan Street get to enjoy the sounds of the cathedral’s carillon bells.

But one man gets to enjoy a bird’s eye view from the tower every day.

“I am just the luckiest guy on earth,” Dale Wheatley said.

Wheatley is a third-generation Freemason and the facility manager at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

“We have, definitely, the most beautiful building in the world, and it is basically world-famous,” Wheatley said.

The cathedral, designed by architect George F. Schreiber and built between 1927 and 1929, is owned by the Valley of Indianapolis Scottish Rite, an affiliated body of Freemasonry.

Wheatley took News 8 on a special journey up to the cathedral’s carillon bell tower.

Wheatley traveled past several floors and hallways, up a stairwell, and then on a trip in a telephone-booth elevator to reach a room that houses the bell apparatus. He took one more spiral staircase to reach the bells.

The trip was all worth it for the close-up view of the bells it provides.

A view of the bells housed at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis. (WISH Photo/Hanna Mordoh)

“This is one of the many treasures most people don’t get to see,” Wheatley said.

There are 54 bells in total, weighing 57,000 pounds.

The G bell weighs 11,200 pounds, according to Wheatley.

“It is 7 feet in diameter. All of our bells here are dead hung, so they don’t swing,” Wheatley explained.

The bells cost $26,000 dollars to make, back in 1928.

“These were actually cast in England, along with the high beam framework they are hanging from. Then they were shipped here to Indianapolis by rail and then put into place by a crane,”Wheatley said.

The view from the bell tower is just as stunning as the sound of the bells.

“It is special because you can actually see most of the city from up here. You can even see more (from) on top of the tower.”

The bells are controlled from the apparatus room below.

“The apparatus is downstairs. They hit the strike and it pulls the cable, which pulls the clapper and rings the bell,” Wheatley explained.

Wheatley says that not many people know how to play the bells anymore. There’s also a new technology that makes the chimes a bit more automated.

“This is what will ring the bells at a quarter after, on the half-hour, quarter ’til, and the hour strike,” Wheatley said. “They are on an electronic mechanism, so they do go off every 15 minutes — then, of course, you get the whole works at the top of the hour.”

The bells and the framework they sit on do need some attention, according to Wheatley. The Scottish Rite Cathedral has a fund where people can donate to help keep them maintained.