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