This Florentine bell tower is one of Furman University’s most beloved landmarks. Furman’s original bell tower was built in 1854 on what used to be the men’s campus in Downtown Greenville. The bells rang to signal the start of classes and to celebrate victories for the athletic teams. Classes at Furman were disbanded during the Civil War, but the bells in the tower were rung to announce Confederate victories.
The original bell tower was not freestanding but connected to “Old Main” or, as it later became known, Richard Furman Hall. It was designed by Edward C. Jones of Jones and Lee, a prominent architectural firm in Charleston that also designed many other buildings such as Old Main at Wofford in Spartanburg, the Church of the Holy Cross in Stateburg, much of Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, and several other churches and buildings in Charleston (1).
The new bell tower, dedicated in May of 1965, was built to the same specifications as the old tower. It bears a plaque at its base honoring Alester Garden Furman, grandson of Furman’s first president, James Clement Furman. The younger Furman graduated in 1914 and became a major financial donor to the college. Fifteen months later, the tower’s 60-bell carillon was named for John Edward Burnside, a 1917 graduate and successful financier. The bells were custom cast in Holland.
Unlike its predecessor, today’s tower stands alone on a small peninsula in Furman Lake. Linking the past with the future, it represents Furman for students and alumni alike. Its iconic image appears on the school’s seal and on many of the university publications.
Last but not least, an interesting legend surrounds the bell tower. It is said that if a man and woman kiss while inside it, they will marry. See comments from readers below for first-hand anecdotal evidence of the legend’s truth!
1. Many, many thanks to Tom Taylor of Greenville, not only for contributing his beautiful images of the bell tower, but also for telling us more about the tower’s origins. Tom is a graduate of Furman, and his wife is the head of the Chemistry department!
More Pictures of the Furman Bell Tower
“The Power of the Tower”
Photographer Calvin Kelley, Sr., says of his photo at the top of the page, “This tower has a story behind it that was recently told to me by my dentist. The story is, if you kiss your girl in the tower, she will become your bride.”
This legend seems to bear some truth! Don Lloyd from Marion County remembers spending many nights strolling the Furman campus with his future wife during their high school years in Greenville. He writes:
The bell tower was (and probably still is) the best date spot in Greenville. The lake is incredibly beautiful and always seemed to impress a date. Of course, no visit would be complete without an excursion to the tower. I suppose that my attempts to be romantic were not the real reason she married me. I now know it was the power of the tower.
Furman alumnae Laura Godfrey says that “in the spring of 2007, my senior year at Furman University, my boyfriend Mike kissed me in the belltower. I am so happy to tell you that we are getting married next summer in Furman’s Daniel Chapel. I guess the story is true!”
If you have a personal experience to back this legend up, please write us and let us know!