Eagle Tribune: Festival of Trees donates $123K to restore Bell Tower and Methuen wall

The Festival of Trees donated $98,450 to restore the Searles Bell Tower on the Presentation of Mary Academy campus and $25,000 to restore the historic city-owned wall along nearby Park Street.

The bell tower was the Festival of Trees’ largest restoration project to date. The group raised the money through its annual Festival of Trees holiday event and they held a volunteer appreciation cookout and ribbon-cutting ceremony last Sunday at the Lawrence Street school.

The bell tower was cleaned inside and out, re-pointed, and a new roof was installed, according to a press release.

Sister Cecile Plasse, provincial superior at Presentation of Mary Academy, said the school is grateful for the donation.

“It’s just very pleasing to the eye. The angel that’s on the tower is called the Angel of the Resurrection, and for us, the tower has new life to it,” Plasse said. “It has come out of hiding, actually, because the trees in front of it hid it some and the Festival of Trees had some of the trees removed, which allows us to see its beauty in totality.”

The Festival of Trees began in 1994 as a fundraiser to restore the Tenney Gatehouse. The festival has since become a catalyst for historic preservation in the Merrimack Valley.
The group paid to restore one side of the wall along Park Street, from Lawrence Street to the corner of Pleasant and Charles streets. The wall is a familiar part of the cityscape and a symbol of Methuen’s heritage.

“Our next goal is to do the other side,” said Festival of Trees President Ann Guastaferro.
“They are both difficult and expensive to maintain,” Mayor William Manzi said of the walls. “It’s a great help to the city … finances being what they are, it would be difficult for us to replicate that.”

This year’s Festival of Trees will be Nov. 21 through Dec. 5 at 13 Branch St. Premier night will be Nov. 20.