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National

Fire In Belltown, USA Destroys Last Bell Factory

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And last December, we told you the story of Bevin Bells - the last bell factory in East Hampton, Connecticut, a place once known as Belltown. Bevin Bells are everywhere. You've probably heard this one from the classic holiday movie, "It's A Wonderful Life."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE")

KAROLYN GRIMES: (as Zuzu Bailey) Look Daddy, the teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

MONTAGNE: Well, it's the Bevin Bell factory that may now be looking for wings.

As Tucker Ives of member station WNPR reports, the historic factory was destroyed by fire last weekend.

TUCKER IVES, BYLINE: Nobody was hurt in the fire, but the town of East Hampton had something ripped out of it.

MATTHEW BEVIN: They've lost a part of their soul.

IVES: That's Matthew Bevin, the latest in a long line of Bevins to own the company. As he walks through what is left of his family's business, he's searching for what made his family name so famous.

BEVIN: With everything else burnt and charred and wrecked around it, was this train bell...

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL RINGING)

BEVIN: Look, it's just awesome, you know? I can clean that up. I can buff that thing. That'll look like a million bucks.

IVES: Walter Olsen came to see the wreckage. He worked at the Bevin factory for 53 years.

WALTER OLSEN: Hard to believe. Like I say, it was my home away from home and it's gone.

IVES: Matt Bevin wants to rebuild the factory.

BEVIN: You know, this is Belltown, baby, and bells should be ringing in Belltown.

IVES: Bevin says he's prepared to take a large financial hit in order to rebuild his family's business.

For NPR News, I'm Tucker Ives in Hartford. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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