Assuring the Future of the Catalina Chimes Tower
First time visitors to Avalon are often deeply moved by the sights and sounds of this beautiful seaside hamlet. The iconic Catalina Casino is invariably the first sight most see as they approach the harbor, and often the first sound they hear once they arrive emanates from the hillside just above the Casino, where the historic Chimes Tower has been singing its familiar tune every fifteen minutes for the past 92 years.
In 1925, William Wrigley Jr. and his wife Ada Elizabeth Wrigley purchased the Westminster chimes from Chicago’s J.C. Deagan Company and soon after had the distinctive Spanish-style tower built as their permanent home. Only half of the 440 chimes ever produced by the Deagan Company are still in operation today.
It was Mrs. Wrigley’s hope that the unique sound of the melodic chimes would waft across the town for years to come, bringing joy to all who visited Avalon and adding another bit of character to the magical island that had captivated she and Mr. Wrigley when they arrived six years earlier as the island’s new majority owners.
The chimes operate on a timer mechanism and originally rang out every fifteen minutes from 7am to 10pm. Today they sound from 8am to 8pm and are often taken off the timer when islander Jani Eisenhut steps into the tower to play special tunes for Christmas, Easter and other events. Sometimes Jani plays for no reason other than for the sheer fun of it.
While the chimes remain in good working order, the tower they call home is beginning to show its age, despite numerous efforts to maintain it. In 2013, the board of the Santa Catalina Island Company decided to create a non-profit foundation, and deeded the chimes and tower to it. The newly formed Catalina Chimes Tower Foundation (CCTF) had its first meeting in 2015, and took ownership of the building. Since then, CCTF has received many gifts from both local residents and visitors overtown, has made great strides in restoration, and continues its fundraising efforts to complete the restoration and beautification of the iconic structure and its surroundings, including a complete refurbishment of the chimes and mechanism.
We all look forward to seeing the Chimes Tower restored to its original glory so the Westminster chimes will continue to have a home from which to make their beautiful music. If you would like to help restore the Chimes Tower, you can send a tax deductible contribution to The Catalina Chimes Tower Foundation, P.O. Box 677, Avalon, CA 90704. For more information, please visit www.catalinachimes.org.