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The Bell Tower was built in 1854 as part of the Richard Furman Classroom Building or "Old Main" on the old men's campus of Furman. This was a centerpiece on the campus as it rang to tell students when classes began and when Furman teams had been victorious. Stories of practical jokes and romances abound regarding the original Bell Tower. During the Civil War, Furman was closed, but the bell in the "Old Main" tower rang after Confederate victories.
Once Furman moved to its new campus, there was talk of building a replica of the Bell Tower, and on May 29, 1965 the new Bell Tower was dedicated. It was built exactly to the dimensions of the "Old Main" tower. This site connects the present university to its history and traditions from the old campus. A plaque at the base of the tower explains that this replica was erected to "bring back memories of the beginnings of Furman University in Greenville and in honor of Alester Garden Furman." Alester Furman is the grandson of James C. Furman, the first president of Furman and a major supporter of the university.
On September 18, 1966, a new 60 bell carillon was dedicated in honor of John Edward Burnside, a 1917 Furman graduate. This carillon is one of the largest in the South in terms of the number of bells. These bells were specifically cast in Holland to fit the dimensions of the Furman Bell Tower.
The Bell Tower now serves as the main symbol of Furman University and is depicted on the seal of the University and in most University publications and advertisements. It is located on a narrow peninsula of the Furman Lake and creates one of the more beautiful scenes on campus. The tower still serves as the center of many stories and traditions, as it did on the old campus.