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Private Gift to Improve One of Covington's Most Visible Landmarks

It is one of Covington's most recognizable landmarks, standing stoically in the center of Goebel Park, casting a proud shadow across Mainstrasse Village as a nod to the city's German heritage.

Its frequent shows - a re-telling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin tale - delights audiences of all ages in better weather.

But the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower, a glockenspiel/clock tower in the tradition of those seen in Germany, has had better days. The striker for the large bell is not working, an umbrella system is out of order, the music can only be played by computer and not by people as intended, and the tower itself is showing signs of deterioration.

On Thursday, the Tower Legacy Foundation was announced, and co-founder Charles Killian privately donated more than $30,000 to the City of Covington for the sole purpose of kickstarting the repairs to the landmark. "Very soon we will hear carillon music, see the Pied Piper of Hamelin mechanical puppet show, and know what time of day it is when we look up at this magnificent tower," Killian said. 

Covington City Commissioner Bill Wells joins Charles Killian at the tower on Thursday (RCN)

Killian's enthusiasm for the tower is reflected in the name of his large, historic commercial property at Sixth and Philadelphia Streets, Hamelin Square. There he co-owns Piper's Cafe, another nod to the tower, with his partner, Chip Adkins. Alongside their popular soft serve ice cream and unique locally-sourced food menu, the couple has always displayed a tip jar of sorts, with modest proceeds going to "Save the Clock Tower", a wink at the film, Back to the Future.

Thursday's contribution is much larger than what is found in that tip jar and the Verdin Company, the Cincinnati-based firm that specializes in this line of work and who installed the glockenspiel originally, is now at the ready to make repairs.

“I am excited to be part of the restoration, especially because I was personally instrumental in bringing to life the vision that MainStrasse Village had for their community and the tower,” said Jim Verdin, president, fifth generation, The Verdin Company. Verdin was sent to Germany in late 1970s to find a suitable glockenspiel to inspire the design for the Covington tower. A Munich glockenspiel that featured The Pied Piper of Hamelin was selected.

Characters from the Pied Piper story "backstage" at the top of the tower (RCN)

Erected in 1979 and named for then-Governor Julian Carroll, it stands 100 feet tall. And now it also stands on the shoulders of a small group of enthusiasts looking to restore it fully. The new foundation is currently working its way through the necessary processes of becoming an independent nonprofit.

Killian said that his was the first private donation to begin the work necessary to restore the tower. "This is only the first step on a long journey that is ahead of us to restore this tower to its original form and purpose," he said.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher