Dayton landmark is ‘a living breathing musical instrument’

Free mini-concerts are held daily at Carillon Historical Park

The largest musical instrument in Ohio — a Dayton landmark — is the setting for daily musical concerts.

Deeds Carillon, the centerpiece of Carillon Historical Park, performs free mini-concerts each day at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The 151-foot-tall carillon is located at the center of a sprawling lawn at the front door of the park. The setting provides a good opportunity to enjoy the outdoor concerts while social-distancing.

“We really feel like it’s an amazing thing because we know the carillon as a landmark but many people don’t realize there are 57 bells hanging in the tower,” said Alex Heckman, vice-president of museum operations.

“We think it is a mark of distinction because it does allow for the greatest musical expression of any bell instrument in Ohio.”

The many bells allow the Deeds Carillon to perform the majority of music that's been written to be played on it, Heckman said.

The mini-concerts are three to five songs and are played from an automated system of 1,000 songs.

On any given day you may hear the bells play “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” “Over the Rainbow,” “In the Good Old Summertime” or “Maria” from the musical “West Side Story.”


The carillon bell tower was built by Col. Edward Deeds, the automotive pioneer and former NCR chief, and his wife Edith Walton Deeds.

Mrs. Deeds reportedly fell in love with the sound of carillon bells while traveling with her husband in Bruges, Belgium, in the 1930s. The carillon’s first concert was on Easter Sunday, 1942.

The tower, made of Indiana limestone, was specially designed to hold the massive weight of the bells.

Of the 32 bells originally forged for the carillon, eight were “silent,” each a memorial to a member of the Deeds family.

The largest bell, the “bourdon,” weighed 7,000 pounds and was named after Col. Deeds. Today it is on display at ground level on the east side of the carillon. The smallest bell weighed 150 pounds and was named after the Deeds’ grandchild, Barbara Burling Deeds.

In 1988, the carillon was renovated and 50 bells imported from Holland were hung from steel brackets on the interior of the tower. Seven more bells were dedicated in 1995, bringing the total number to 57 and making Deeds Carillon the largest in Ohio.

Dr. Larry Weinstein, a carillonneur for Carillon Historical Park since 1988, also plays 30 half-hour concerts throughout the year. A schedule of his concerts can be found on the park's website

Carillon Historical Park is temporarily closed during the coronavirus pandemic but the lawn around the Deeds Carillon is still accessible to the public.

The concerts are a wonderful backdrop for a picnic lunch, a resting spot while bicycling on the Great Miami River Trail, or as visitors try to spot Orv and Willa, the park’s resident bald eagles.

“Edith Deeds would be proud of the fact that we do have the largest carillon instrument in Ohio,” Heckman said. “She thought of it as a living memorial to her husband and to her family.”

“Over 75 years later, it certainly serves as that and as a great landmark for Dayton, but it really is a living breathing musical instrument.”

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