A VIP tour for one of the Bell Tower draftsmen

The top of the Mahanay Bell Tower was a popular destination last weekend during the Bell Tower Festival, with 2,500 (or so) riding up the elevator Saturday.

Fred and Joan BrooksA special visitor Friday, while the Festival was still in set-up mode, was Fred Brooks, 84, of Rockwell City. He and his wife Joan met relatives from Des Moines in Jefferson Friday. Greene County Chamber assistant Brandon Gustoff struck up a conversation with them and learned Fred, while working as a draftsman for Venetian Ornamental Iron Works in Des Moines, had done the design work on the iron railings in and around the Bell Tower, and it was he who designed the spiral staircase that goes all the way to the top of the tower.

Years ago, the stairs were used during the Bell Tower Festival for timed races. That sport ended due to liability concerns, and the stairs are used now only for maintenance.

Brooks 2The Brookses have driven past the Bell Tower many times, but had not been to the top until Friday. Chamber executive director of tourism and events Chris Henning arranged a special VIP trip up for them and their relatives, which included Fred’s 90-year-old sister Maxine Woolley of West Des Moines. Fred (seated) was accompanied by (clockwise, starting at Fred’s left) his niece Jerrie Lee, Maxine, his wife Joan, his daughter Janelle Beck and great-grandson Aiden, and his nephew Doug Woolley and wife Kathy.

Fred was suitably impressed with the tower, both from the ground and at the top. “Oh, my Lord! What a beautiful building,” he said as he approached the entrance. “It doesn’t look that tall!” and “This is beautiful” were his comments at the top, as he studied the view from all directions. “This is the greatest thing I ever worked on,” he said.

Fred remembered that during construction some of the panels didn’t fit exactly as planned the first time. “I know they had a heck of a time,” he said.

 

 

 

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