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Antebellum Architecture
Richmond's African American Heritage
The Continuing legacy of Historic Preservation
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
Bell Tower

Bell Tower

Bell Tower
City of Richmond
Department of Community Development

The Bell Tower at the southwest corner of Capitol Square was originally a guardhouse for the public guard and a signal tower for emergencies and meetings. While the tower is architecturally significant, the building is also noteworthy because of its history and its place in Capitol Square. Designed by builder Levi Swan and erected in 1824, the square Neoclassical building has one bay surrounded by blind arches on each side and is topped by an arcaded octagonal belvedere. The brick tower is laid in Flemish bond and dressed in Acquia sandstone.

This building replaced an earlier wooden bell tower that stood closer to the Capitol. At the time of its construction, the current Bell Tower was next to the barracks of the Virginia Capitol Guard, the predecessors of the Capitol Square Police, and served to warn the city in case of fire or other emergency. During the Civil War, the bell in the tower rang to alert Richmond to the approach of the Federal gunboat Pawnee and on February 7, 1864 to sound the alarm for Dahlgren’s Raid, a Union assault on the Confederate capital.

Bell Tower 2

Bell Tower c.1900-1930
Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries

The Bell Tower fell into disuse in the late 19th century, but interest in historic preservation in the early 20th century prompted its restoration. The building now houses a tourist information office, and the bell in the tower calls the Virginia General Assembly into session, as it has since the 1930s.

Plan your visit

The Bell Tower is located on Capitol Square, the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol, at Bank and 10th Sts. The grounds are open to the public 8:30am to 5:00pm Monday-Saturday, and Sunday 1:00pm to 4:00pm.  The Bell Tower is open 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday -Friday.  Walking tours are available.  For more information, call 804-698-1788.  The Bell Tower has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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