Burton Tower

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In 1919, an editorial in the Michigan Alumnus expressed what appears to be the first recorded evidence of an interest in a bell tower on the University of Michigan campus. The project did not begin, however, until 1935, when Charles M. Baird, a former University Athletic Director and graduate of the class of 1895, offered to give a carillon and clock to the University specifically for this purpose.

In 1935, the University Board of Regents approved designs by Albert Kahn to construct a tower in memoriam to Marion L. Burton, the beloved president of the University from 1920-1925, who died in office. A plot of land adjacent to Hill Auditorium on the central mall was purchased for the location of the new tower at a cost of $44,657.02. The original intent was for the tower to become the first unit of a new School of Music building that would connect to Hill Auditorium.

Following its construction, Albert Kahn wrote of the building: "In its exterior treatment no particular precedent has been followed. The Interior requirements of the tower have determined the design and tell their own story in a simple and direct manner. The base of the structure is executed in shot-sawed limestone, by which process a certain texture and color have been obtained. The trimmings throughout are of rubbed Indiana limestone. The bell chamber proper is designed to offer a maximum of opening for the best effect of the bells. Directly below the bell chamber are the carilloneur's room and studio. The tower is 42 feet square at its base. The floor of the bell chamber is 120 feet from the ground and the height of the tower over all is 192 feet."

Of course, the signature feature of the Burton Memorial Tower is the Charles Baird Carillon. An instrument best suited for folk or hymn melodies in a simple, direct style of harmonization, the carillon consists of fifty-three bells. The largest bell, known as the Bourdon, weighs over 12 tons and has a pitch of E flat between low middle C, while the smallest bell is a G sharp four and one-half octaves above the Bourdon. This creates a wide range that allows the carilloneur to play multi-part harmonies. The inscription on the Bourdon reads:





Source: The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey; Walter A. Donnelly, Wilfred B. Shaw, and Ruth W. Gjelsness, editors; Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 1958.; the "Proceedings of the Board of Regents" (1932- 1936), pp. 732, 752, 807.; and From the vertical file on Burton Tower: "The Charles Baird Carillon in the Burton Memorial Tower. The University of Michigan" (June 1973).; "The Marion L. Burton Memorial: A Message to the Classes of 1921 through 1928." (n.d.).; "The Charles Baird Carillon: The University of Michigan" (December 4, 1936).; "The Burton Memorial Tower" (n.d.).