The Top: 10 Facts to Celebrate the UCR Bell Tower’s 50th Anniversary

See photos, read about events, facts, and follow the bell tower on Twitter

A picture from the dedication of the tower, 50 years ago. ucr file

Welcome to The Top!

Each issue, we present a list of UCR staff and faculty favorites — from walking spots to gardens to events.

This week, we are honoring a very special birthday on campus–the bell tower‘s! The iconic landmark has been towering over the university for 50 years now, and Oct. 2nd marked the golden anniversary of its dedication. To celebrate, we have a list of the top bell tower facts. 

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1. A 48-bell carillon is housed at the top of the bell tower.

Inside the bell tower’s top chamber is a concert carillon that is made up of 48 cup-shaped bells. The musical instrument is tuned in a chromatic series and is played from a keyboard that allows variation of touch. The chimes heard from the tower every hour is an automatic playing of the carillon, but during the academic year, live performances by the current university carillonneur, David Christensen, occur weekly on Mondays at noon.

2. UCR’s bell tower is one of five true carillons in California.

The carillon bells inside the UCR bell tower. Photo by Andrew Golden

The carillon inside of the UCR bell tower. Andrew Golden

Bell towers are found frequently at churches and universities throughout the state, but what makes UCR’s bell tower unique is the carillon that is housed inside. The other four true carillons in California are: UC Santa Barbara’s Storke Tower; UC Berkeley’s Sather Tower; Stanford University’s Hoover Tower; and the carillon at Christ Cathedral in Orange County.

3. It took nine months to construct the bell tower.

A photo of the bell tower being built in 1966.

A photo from the early stages of the bell tower’s construction in 1966.

The carillon and tower were a gift from former UC Regent Philip Boyd, and his wife, Dorothy. After nine months of construction, the bell tower was dedicated to them on Oct. 2, 1966.

4. The bell tower’s 50th anniversary will be celebrated with a concert series!

Say "happy birthday" to the bell tower at one of its concert series events.Photo by Bethanie Le

Say “happy birthday” to the bell tower at one of its 50th Anniversary carillon concert events.Bethanie Le

The festivities will kick off on Oct. 17 with a “Bells and Bagpipes Birthday Bash,” where a piper, drummer, and dancer will perform alongside University Carillonneur David Christensen. The UCR Bell Tower 50th Anniversary Carillon Concert Series will continue with more guest musicians and live performances on Oct. 24, 31 and Nov. 7 at noon. For more information, go to UCR Happenings.

5. UCR’s Fall Magazine has an online feature about the bell tower’s 50th birthday.

A sneak peek of UCR Magazine's bell tower feature. For the real deal, head over to

A peek at UCR Magazine’s bell tower feature.

Like what you’re reading so far? There’s even more facts and stats in the fall issue of UCR Magazine! “The Bell Tower by the Numbers” article will give you insight on topics such as: UCR’s three carillonneurs, the number of holes that cover the tower, and how many bagpipes would be equivalent to the weight of the bell tower.

6. The bell tower is active on Twitter.

The UCR bell tower account is @UCR_belltower.

The UCR bell tower account is @UCR_Belltower.

The bell tower is 50 and hip! It has a very active presence on Twitter (@UCR_Belltower) with its “BONG BONG BONG,” hour-by-hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week tweets. This gives its followers a virtual experience of listening to the hourly chimes. Once in awhile, the bell tower will also tweet out UCR news, encouragements, and information about events taking place around campus. Read the story behind the creator the bell tower Twitter account on UCR Today.

7. The bell tower lights up blue in April for Autism Awareness Month.

Photo by Ross French

Since 2012, UCR’s bell tower has taken on a blue glow in April, in recognition of Autism Awareness Month. Ross French

As part of Autism Awareness Month in April, Autism Speaks, an autism science and advocacy organization, has a “Light It Up Blue” campaign to help raise awareness. Since 2012, UCR has participated by shining a blue light on the bell tower in April.

8. In 2007, UCR engineering students created an 8-foot-tall bell tower made entirely of cans.

UCR engineering students designed this campus scene, which includes a bell tower, that is made of cans of albacore. Photo by Michael Elderman

For the 2007 “Canstruction” contest, UCR engineering students designed this winning campus scene, which includes a bell tower made out of cans of albacore. Michael Elderman

In 2007, a group of students from UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering entered Riverside Arts Alliance’s “Canstruction” competition, a fundraiser for the Riverside Art Museum that requires teams to create structures made entirely out of cans of food. The UCR engineers won for best use of labels with their design that incorporated well-known features of the UCR campus, which included an 8-foot-tall bell tower made out of cans of albacore. Read the entire story here.

9. University Carillonneur David Christensen has been playing weekly carillon concerts for 29 years.

Videos of his performances on the UCR carillon can be found on his YouTube channel, @DavidChristensen1, where he uploads recordings of holiday tunes, songs from films like “Ghostbusters,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” the “The Wizard of Oz,” and more.

10. Bell tower merchandise can be found at the UCR Campus Store.

Pictured: a bell tower card, magnet, keychain, and socks from the UCR campus store.

Pictured: a bell tower card, magnet, keychain, and socks from the UCR campus store.

Looking for something to wear for the 50th Anniversary Carillon Concert Series? How about a pair of bell tower socks? From socks to magnets and keychains, the UCR Campus Store has you covered with bell tower-related merchandise!

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