Wineka column: Tower of music at City Memorial Park has seldom missed a note in 64 years

  • Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013 11:51 p.m.
    UPDATED: Saturday, March 2, 2013 12:45 a.m.
A pedestrian walks past the 42-foot granite tower in City Memorial Park that has been playing music for more than 60 years.
A pedestrian walks past the 42-foot granite tower in City Memorial Park that has been playing music for more than 60 years.

SALISBURY — Every day at noon and 5 p.m., the music chimes in.

It comes from the carillon inside the 42-foot-high tower on the hillside at City Memorial Park. The uniquely curved granite monument has a singing angel at top, where the music from four speakers inside the tower comes through about a dozen screened slats or windows.


To reach the guts of the tower, you have to open a heavy bronze door on one side. Summie Carter, head of Summersett Funeral Home, has one of the keys — a long piece of metal with several teeth cut out. It looks like a safe deposit box key on steroids.

The door swings open to the tiniest of spaces. Along the wall, a ladder attached to the stone rises straight up toward the top, where maintenance engineers can access the speakers if needed.

A computer of sorts sits in the corner with a slot for a memory card, a digital readout of the time and, if the chimes are going, the name of the song appears in that window.

When I visited the tower at Grove and West Innes streets this week, the two hymns played at noon were “This Is My Father’s World” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

The notes of the music rolled sweetly over the cemetery. Carter recognized the songs right away. Two songs also are played at 5 p.m.

If you’re like me, you’ve walked or driven by this tower for decades without knowing its story but appreciating its contribution, both musically and architecturally.

I stumbled on to some information about the monument this week while looking for something else in the Post’s “morgue,” our library of stories from years past.

The tower’s history is fascinating. It’s a memorial to Burl Vance Hedrick, a Salisburian who served periods as both mayor and city manager. He was an inventor of implements such as a rotary plow and combination curb and gutter trowels.

He was a paving and roads contractor; a big-time sand, gravel and concrete pipe supplier; owner of the old Lowery hospital; a car dealership owner, an international lay leader; and even a newspaperman.

For a year, in 1937-38, he served as publisher of a direct competitor to the Post, the Salisbury Morning Herald,

Hedrick, a Methodist, was active in the Baraca-Philathea Christian movement, and after serving as president of the N.C. Baraca-Philathea Union three times, he became president of the worldwide union in 1940.

He served as worldwide union president for four terms. Hedrick and his wife, Daisy, traveled the country extensively for the organization, which once held its international convention in Salisbury, bringing hundreds of visitors into the city.

“For thousands of its members in cities large and small,” Hedrick’s newspaper obituary said in 1944, “he became the living exemplification of the successful businessman into whose life faith has strongly entered, and for whom prosperity means opportunity to perform Christian works.”

Hedrick, who died on Christmas Day 1944, also trained his three daughters in various aspects of his businesses, “and they are ranked among the ablest young business women the town has produced,” the newspaper said.

But back to the tower. Daisy Hedrick went to Salisbury City Council in August 1945 and told the city of her plans for a memorial to her husband.

At the time, Daisy Hedrick was thinking of a chapel, chimes or combination of both in the city-owned City Memorial Park.

Over the next four years, the plans for a “musical tower” evolved, and architect John Ramsay was asked to design it.

The tower would be built of native pink granite from the Harris Co. in Granite Quarry, and its construction would rely on “native labor,” the newspaper said.

Music from the top of the tower, where a singing angel would be sculpted into the stone, “will voice hope and faith.”

A man described as “one of the greatest living sculptors” of the day, Wheeler Williams of New York, carved out the singing angel, who holds a harp.

Ramsay incorporated a concave form to the tower he hoped would act as a sound reflector and enhance the music.

A Pennsylvania-based company, Schulmerich Carillons of Sellersville, installed the chimes and still services them today.

The musical tower’s dedication was held Nov. 10, 1949, on what would have been Hedrick’s 73rd birthday. Ten of his grandchildren were on hand with hundreds of other Salisburians.

An attractive patio of 94 squares serves as base for the tower.

It holds markers for the Hedricks, Bradys, Goodmans and Johnsons — all part of the family.

Carter, whose funeral home sits on West Innes Street across from City Memorial Park, says the family owns and pays for any maintenance related to the tower, the landscaped area around it and a hillside section including 65 burial plots.

In his office, Carter keeps a color-coded map of blue, orange and green of this Hedrick section showing how the lots are divided among the families.

For many years, Daisy Hedrick’s son-in-law Enoch Goodman managed any business related to the tower or grounds. Now those responsibilities fall to Jeff Goodman in Asheville.

The family asked Carter to keep a key for the tower, so he could change out the music for seasons such as Christmas and Easter and also be the point man for when repairs were needed.

Carter plays the chimes at some graveside services, if families request it.

From its dedication, Daisy Hedrick wanted the tower’s music to be available for funerals and special events.

“It’s a nice feature for the area and nice for us because we get to use it when we can,” Carter says.

Ernest Wiggins served the family for many years as caretaker for this section of the cemetery, which still receives special attention beyond any mowing the city might do.

Two large pin oaks rise on either side of the tower, which is lighted at night. Enoch Goodman, who died in 2005, also used to put lights in a nearby holly tree at Christmas.

It was a nice touch, Carter says, and some strands of the Christmas lights are still in the holly.

A couple of other things should be mentioned.

The Schulmerich company, founded in 1935, has become the world’s largest producer of carillons and handbells.

And the tower at City Memorial Park is not the county’s largest musical monument.

At Rowan Memorial Park on U.S. 601, founder J.L. Brooks, who died in 1963, built a “singing tower” with a large sculpture of Moses on top.

The original, built in honor of Brooks’ wife, Mary, rose 55 feet high when Moses was counted in.

The folks at the Rowan Memorial Park office tell me it was rebuilt about 10 years ago when some of the mortar joints between the big stone blocks were failing, and the revised version is not quite as tall.

But it’s still higher than the tower at City Memorial Park.

The chimes sound off under Moses’ feet every hour.

That has to tickle.
 
 
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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