Supporters of the Netherlands Carillon, which for more than 50 years has rung out melodies of international friendship from a point overlooking Washington’s monumental landscape, launched a $5.8 million restoration fundraising effort Thursday with a $4 million commitment from the National Park Service.
The 127-foot tower between the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery has been closed to visitors for the past five years, and needs serious structural and safety repairs to make it safe to climb.
Under the planned restoration, three new bells will join the 50 existing bells, to make the site a “grand carillon,” one of only about two dozen in the world. All the bells are cast in the Netherlands, and kept in tune with annual visits by Dutch carillonneurs.
“Repairs are urgently needed, but the operation also gives us the opportunity to upgrade the memorial,” Dutch Ambassador Henne Schuwer said in a statement.
In addition to the money from the American government, the Royal Netherlands Embassy is raising $1.2 million through the Netherland-America Foundation for the chimes, its operating system and surroundings. It will also pay for the new bells, create an educational curriculum for visitors and for future repairs. Those who wish to donate can do so at www.nlintheusa.com/carillon.
The embassy is also supporting the Singing Bronze Foundation in the Netherlands, which is trying to raise $600,000 there.
The carillon was donated by the Dutch people in 1952 to thank the United States for its role in liberating the Netherlands during World War II, and for the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild its economy after the war. Most visitors who happen upon the summer concerts on the lawn beneath the tower do not know its significance, nor do they realize that each bell — ranging from 42 pounds to 6½ tons — is unique, carrying an emblem that represents different groups within Dutch society and inscribed with sentiments of gratitude.
“Every time I pass by, I realize that this monument is a symbol for Dutch gratitude to the U.S. It represents the good relationship we have,” Schuwer said. “The fact that this building will be restored strengthens my optimism about the future of Dutch-American ties.”