Bell Tower

The Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower is one of our favorite campus landmarks. Climbing the Bell Tower with us adds 256 steps to your day (128 going up, 128 coming down). From ground to the fourth-floor landing, you can say “I climbed the Bell Tower” (and we’ll have a sticker for you to wear as proof).

We open the Bell Tower on home football Saturdays for all Tar Heels and friends to make the climb. The climb starts three hours prior to kickoff and closes one hour before the start of the game. Access on the terrace is no longer permitted.

Seniors also make the climb with us during Senior Week each spring so they may check off this iconic tradition before they graduate.

Bell Tower Facts

  • Dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 1931, the Bell Tower was a gift to UNC from John Motley Morehead, class of 1891, and Rufus Lenoir Patterson, to commemorate the dedication the two families had to the University.
  • The architecture firm, McKim, Mead and White oversaw the project which began construction in March 1930.
  • The Bell Tower cost $100,000 to build (that’s about $1,508,916. today).
  • The Bell Tower has 128 steps, stands at 172 feet tall and a clock face that is nine feet wide.
  • The tower is made of red brick and Indiana limestone, with Guastavino tile work in the arches.
  • The tower is surrounded by a maze-like landscape of lawn and hedges designed by William C. Coker, the botany professor who created the campus Arboretum.
  • The original belfry had a carillon of 12 bells that weighed a total of 14,350 pounds.
  • The largest bell, which tolls the hours, is engraved with the name of Governor John Motley Morehead, a past president of the UNC General Alumni Association. The remaining bells are also engraved with names of the Morehead and Patterson families.
  • In 1998, two additional bells were gifted by Lucinda Wilcox ’58 to give the tower a bigger musical repertoire.
  • Today, there are 14 bells programed by a digital keyboard.
  • The bell tolls every 15 minutes and will occasionally play songs such as “Hark the Sound” or “Carolina Victory.”
  • Chancellor James Moeser was the first chancellor to light the tower at night. The tower has remained lit at night by privately-funded lights since Sept. 14, 2004.
  • Each year on the eve of the First Day of Class, Carolina Alumni, with Order of the Bell Tower, illuminates the Bell Tower in blue and white at Bell Tower Relighting, in celebration of the start of a new academic school year.
  • With the return of Coach Mack Brown, after each football victory, the Bell Tower is illuminated in blue.

It's LIT ... Lighting the Bell Tower

Lighting the Bell Tower is a storied tradition at UNC. The Bell Tower is lit by Order of the Bell Tower and Carolina Alumni to signify the beginning of the academic year each August. Outside of this occasion, UNC Athletics lights the Bell Tower after every football and varsity National Championship win.

Be sure to add our LIT GIF / sticker to your Instagram stories when you see the Bell Tower lit and are posting about it on social.