View 202: Cornell Chimes

In 1868, a set of nine chimes was donated to Cornell University by Jennie McGraw.  She later married university librarian, Willard Fiske, who had traveled to Europe with her in order to woo her. I doubt Miss McGraw’s recent inheritance of her family’s fortune had nothing to do with that.  Upon her death shortly after their honeymoon, she was entombed in Cornell’s Sage Chapel.

The sarcophagus of Jennie McGraw Fiska inside the Sage Chapel on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York.

The sarcophagus of Jennie McGraw Fiska inside the Sage Chapel on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/10s, f/4.5, ISO 3200, EV+0.3, 55mm focal length.

Her Will bequeathed her fortune of $2 million to Cornell University.  Does not sound like much but in today’s dollars that would amount to $120 million. Mr. Fiske took the Will to court and it became quite the story of love and money in Ithaca.

In 1891, the chimes were moved to their current location in the 173 foot (53 meters) tall Jennie McGraw Tower. Over the years since they have been expanded to twenty-one chimes. McGraw Tower is Cornell’s most prominent landmark and is adjacent to Uris Library. The tower is also home to an office, museum, practice room, and a restored 1875 SethThomas clock with a 14-foot pendulum. Visitors can still see the clockworks and pendulum, but the clock was linked to the Global Positioning System in 1999.

McGraw Tower on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York.

McGraw Tower on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/320s, f/8, ISO 800, EV +0.3, 28mm focal length.

Students who want to play the chimes or people who want to see those students play the chimes must climb 161 steps.  I bet the view is breathtaking and maybe I will find out for myself on my next trip to Cornell.

Chimesmasters play three concerts daily which include a Cornell standard, the “Jennie McGraw Rag” each morning, Cornell’s alma mater at mid-day and the “Evening Song” at day’s end. On weekends different music is played.  Being close to Halloween, I heard the Ghostbusters movie theme being played.  They have even played the Mickey Mouse March!

Students looking out from the McGraw Tower on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York after climbing 161 steps.

Students looking out from the McGraw Tower on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York after climbing 161 steps. Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/160s, f/8, ISO 800, EV +0.3, 230mm focal length.

I would like to thank my Ithaca guides Barbara of The Aspiring Photographer and Debbie of My Life in CNY for showing me around Cornell and filling me in on the stories and history of the campus.

UPDATE: Debbie has posted photos from the top of Jennie McGraw Tower on her blog.  Thanks!

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5 Responses to View 202: Cornell Chimes

  1. Gerry says:

    My very favorite kind of adventure–a really good story in a beautiful setting.

    Now I want to go read a biography of Jennie McGraw Fiske. No, wait–now I want to be 18 again and a student at Cornell. No, wait–now I want to be 35 again and a professor of history at Cornell, writing the definitive biography of Jennie. That lovely photo of her sarcophagus can be the cover art.

    Like

  2. kanniduba says:

    Poor Jennie McGraw, winding up with that dirty dog…
    Fascinating story Scott, and beautiful photos as always. 🙂

    Like

  3. Pingback: Cornell Chimes – cont. « My Life in CNY

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