Virginia Union University Looks to Bring Music to a Belfry That Has Been Quiet for 65 Years

The Belgian Friendship Pavilion was one of the more striking architectural structures at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. By the end of the fair, Belgium was occupied by the Nazis. So the Belgium government in exile donated the building to Virginia Union University, the historically black educational institution in Richmond.

The building was disassembled, transported to Richmond, and reconstructed on the Virginia Union campus. But the 35-bell carillon that sat atop the Friendship Pavilion was not included in the donation. Those bells were donated to Stanford University and remain atop the Hoover Tower in Palo Alto.

Now an effort is under way at Virginia Union to raise $800,000 to buy replacement bells for the Belgium Friendship Pavilion building on the Virginia Union campus. A nonprofit organization called Bells for Peace has been founded by a Virginia Union alumna, who has scheduled a series of concerts this spring to begin raising the necessary funds.