Bronze bell to ring in vows at Lairmont Manor

It’s been almost 50 years since the Sisters of St. Joseph lived and learned within the Renaissance-style walls of Lairmont Manor. But a new addition to the house’s grounds will honor their legacy with every ring.

The Sisters of St. Joseph bell was recently purchased by Lairmont and now sits tucked among the flowers and manicured landscaping on its grounds.

The bell is made from 800 pounds of bronze that was cast in 1877 by the Meneely and Kimberly Bell Company in New York. It served as both a school and a church bell in Wilbraham, Mass., before Douglas and the rest of the Lairmont group purchased it for about $3,000 on eBay.

Now 138 years and more than 3,000 miles later, the bell has a new home and a new name to honor an influential group in Bellingham’s past.

“(The Sisters of St. Joseph) are part of the history here,” Lairmont owner Joel Douglas said. “They brought a good historical and spiritual perspective.”

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace founded St. Joseph Hospital in 1891 and acquired the Lairmont property, then called Larrabee House, in 1942. Dormitories, classrooms and a chapel were added to the house to serve the young women as they went through various stages of their religious vows and education.

Before that, the home was privately owned by Frances Larrabee, whose husband Charles was one of the founders of Fairhaven and commissioned well-known Seattle architect Carl Gould Sr. to design the building in 1914. However, Charles died before the building’s completion.

Douglas’ family acquired the property in 1967 and has since turned it into a popular location for weddings and other events. Between 3,500 and 4,000 couples have said “I do” on Lairmont’s grounds, Douglas said, and he hopes the bell will add a historical sentiment for some couples on their special days.

“Just the term ‘wedding bells’ has a certain ring to it,” Douglas said. “We’re bringing back a little history of something classical about weddings.”

One of the first couples to request the bell to be rung after their wedding will be getting married Sunday, July 12.

But whether it is tolling to announce the vows of a newly wedded couple or standing as a silent addition to the Lairmont gardens, Douglas said there’s a majesty to the bell that always remains.

“Bells have their own part in human history, and it goes back thousands of years,” he said. “It’s a combination of art, history, music and celebration.”

Libby Keller can be reached at 360-715-2242 or libby.keller@bellinghamherald.com.