Past and present

Inspired by a love of music and the desire to honor American soldiers following the First World War, the Mayo brothers and other community leaders explored various options for having a carillon in Rochester in the 1920s. The decision was made to house the instrument in the newly-completed Plummer Building, a National Historic Landmark. The tower and carillon have become the most prominent landmarks in Rochester.

The original 23 bells were the gift of Drs. William J. and Charles H. Mayo, both of whom were Colonels in medical service during the First World War. They were cast in the foundry of Gillett & Johnston in Croydon, England, and consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury before shipment to the United States. Thirty-three bells, along with a new clavier, practice console, and glass-enclosed performer’s cabin, were added in 1977. The new bells were cast at the Petit & Fritsen Foundry in Aarle-Rixtel, Holland. Now at 56 bells, the Rochester Carillon covers a 4.5 octave range.

A variety of music is played during each carillon concert to reflect the diversity of Mayo Clinic patients, staff and visitors. The carillon is an example of how the performing arts support the healing mission of Mayo Clinic, and is part of the Mayo Clinic Dolores Jean Lavins Center for Humanities in Medicine.

Facts and figures

Number of bells 56
Total weight of the bells 18,144 kg
Weight of the bourdon 3556 kg
Pitch of bourdon b flat, connected to B flat in the keyboard


22 Gillet & Johnston (1927/1928), 33 Petit & Fritsen (1977); 1 John Taylor & co (2006)
Manual playing system mechanical baton-type keyboard
Automatic playing system Gillett & Johnston pneumatic system using second set of internal clappers on the lowest two octaves, controlled by Meeks & Watson computer program
Carillonneur Austin Ferguson
Regular recitals Monday-Friday from 4.45 to 5.15 pm; Wednesdays and Fridays from 12 to 12.30 pm; Thursdays from 8.30 to 9 am (June-August)
Summer concerts on occasions
Accessibility of the tower by appointment only

Significant inscription

Dedicated to the American soldier by William J. and Charles H. Mayo

Inscription on the bourdon

Social visit