Bell tower

The university's iconic bell tower was dedicated on November 26, 1931. The official name —Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower —recognizes the families of the two men who donated the funds to build it in the heart of campus. John Motley Morehead, UNC class of 1891, and his cousin Rufus Lenoir Patterson II first tried to place a bell tower on top of South Building but were turned down. They then suggested the center of Polk Place, where the flagpole now stands, but the architectural plan for the quad called for it to remain open space. In 1930 they asked the university to include it in the plan for the new Memorial Hall but were eventually persuaded to accept the site south of Wilson Library.

Located at the north end of Kenan Stadium, the bell tower rises 172 feet. Its belfry originally contained a carillon of twelve manually operated bells. Two additional bells were added in the 1980s and the system was mechanized. The bells chime the hour and quarter-hours and play songs on special occasions. In a letter to John Motley Morehead a few weeks after the tower dedication, university president Frank Porter Graham wrote that the "chimes are becoming part of the atmosphere and the spirit of the place."

A student serves as master bell ringer, an honor that comes with a key to the door and the chance to play "Carolina Victory" on home football game days. It is a campus tradition for seniors to climb the narrow spiral staircase to the top at the end of the year. Many of their signatures fill the inside walls.


Date Established: 1931

Date Range: 1931 – Present

Interior of the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower, ca. 1965, showing a student manually ringing the bells. UNC Photo Lab Collection, North Carolina Collection Photo Archives, Wilson Library.