Medina school bell from 1850 likely headed back to district

Photos by Tom Rivers: Craig Lacy, vice president and treasurer of the Medina Historical Society, is pictured with a school bell from the Medina Academy. The bell was made in 1850 in Buffalo. The Medina Academy opened in 1851.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 September 2017 at 1:27 pm

MEDINA – A bell from 1850 that rang to welcome school children and also to send them home likely will be returning to the school district to be displayed prominently.

The 700-pound bell was donated to the Medina Historical Society last month by Carl Petronio of Albion. He kept the bell for 50 years after he and his father found it in the basement of a burnt-out school building in Medina. Carl Petronio Construction Company was hired in 1967 to clear out the debris from the badly damaged school building.

Petronio last month donated the bell to the Historical Society. He would like it to be displayed prominently in the community.

This image shows the Medina Free Academy, which opened in 1851 with the average attendance of about 300 to 400 students. The bell tower is at top.

Craig Lacy, vice president and treasurer of the Historical Society, thinks the bell should be set up at the current school district, perhaps in the high school or outside in an enclosed display.

He met with the Board of Education last week, and the board was receptive to having the bell come home to the district. Mark Kruzynski, the district superintendent, said Medina is considering how to best display it.

Putting it in the vestibule by the high school auditorium would protect it from the elements and vandals, and also have it in a spot where it would be seen by many people, Kruzynski said. That is one possibility for the bell’s location.

Lacy didn’t know the bell still existed until last month. Right now, it’s in the basement of Lacy’s NAPA Auto Parts store in Medina. He was happy to show the bell today to a news reporter, and even rang the bell.

“It’s a great artifact,” he said. “There are a lot of great possibility for this for this bell because it still does work.”

He thinks it rests on its original wooden carriage. He imagines the bell could be rung during commencement or the first day of school.

The cast bronze bell was made in Buffalo in 1850.

The bell has power symbolically for the community. When the Medina Academy opened in 1851, it was only the third school to offer free education for students. Most academies then were tuition-based, Lacy said.

“It really stands for something, this bell,” he said.

The State Legislature in 1849 made a special act to allow for the incorporation of the Medina Free Academy. The Legislature empowered Medina to tax residents to support the school and also to form a Board of Education to govern the school.

“This bell is an amazing acquisition for the community,” Lacy said. “It is a real, tangible artifact representing not only the roots of modern education in Medina, but also for all of Western New York as it sat atop only the third school in New York State to offer free secondary education to its residents.”

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