Highlands UMC celebrates 100th anniversary of McCoy Bells with Christmas Eve concert

The Highlands United Methodist Church in Five Points South. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Over the weekend, Highlands United Methodist Church in Five Points South celebrated the 100th anniversary of McCoy Bell Tower, which was dedicated on Christmas Eve in 1921. Keep reading to learn more about the historic church & its famous bells!

Highlands United Methodist Church, a Five Points original since 1909

Highlands United Methodist Church in Five Points South
Highlands United Methodist Church (right) in Five Points South before 1921. Photo via Birmingham Public Library Department of Archives & Manuscripts

Located between Magnolia Avenue and 11th Avenue South in Five Points South, Highlands United Methodist Church is one of the most unique historic churches in Birmingham. With its looming bell tower and eye-catching tiled roof, the building is one of the few public examples of Spanish Renaissance Revival architecture in The Magic City.

Built between 1907 and 1909, the church was designed by Philip Thornton Marye, an architect from Virginia who famously designed the Birmingham Terminal Station. Since the station was demolished in 1969, Highlands United Methodist Church remains as the sole surviving example of Marye’s work in Birmingham.

Although the majority of the church was completed by 1909, the congregation ran out of funding before completing the bell tower. However, the church saved up enough money to complete the tower by 1921.

The Historic McCoy Bell Tower

According to Highlands United Methodist Church, the McCoy Bell Towerโ€”and the thirteen bronze bells that reside insideโ€”were an anonymous gift to the church, and were officially dedicated on Christmas Eve, 1921.

“In 1921 someone donated the bells in honor of the first pastor of our church, Bishop James Henry McCoy. They’re called the McCoy Bells, and one of the pictures shows all 13 of them lined up in front of the church. I don’t know how they got them up there in 1921!”

Steve Alexander, Lay Leader at Highlands United Methodist Church & Chairman of the Five Points Alliance

Each of the 13 bronze wells were cast by and are still maintained by the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, Maryland. The bells were each cast with a Bible verse, and chime portions of the Westminster Chime every quarter-hour and play the full chime on the hour during the day. In addition, the bells are rung manually before and during church service.

Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the McCoy Bell Tower with a Christmas Eve Bell Concert

On Christmas Eve, Bham Now’er Pat Byington joined the crowd as they celebrated the McCoy Bell Tower with a Christmas Eve Bell Concert.

“I hope this concert means a lot to Five Points South, because this neighborhood means so much to our church. These bells have rung for the end of wars, for every wedding held here, for every good occasion and every solemn occasion. We really wanted to celebrate our place at the center of this intersection in this historic community.”

Steve Alexander, Lay Leader at Highlands United Methodist Church & Chairman of the Five Points Alliance

The Christmas Eve Bell Concert featured a selection of ten traditional carols, which were played at the dedication of the bell tower 100 years ago. Each attendee received a miniature bell ornament, to commemorate the event.

Did you attend Highlands United Methodist Church’s Christmas Eve Bell Concert? Tag us @bhamow with all your photos!

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Nathan Watson
Originally from Leiper's Fork, Tennessee. Birmingham-Southern '19.
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