Rallying the Lawmakers

Feb 22, 2015

During the General Assembly session in Richmond, lawmakers are rallied to the Capitol each day by two different bell towers that ring in coordination with each other.

Each day the General Assembly is in session, Capitol Police screener Larry Toomer climbs the steps of the bell tower in Capitol Square and waits to hear the chimes from another bell tower across the street at St. Paul's Episcopal Church 

"One they start ringing, we ring right in between. When they ring, we ring. We ring. When they ring again we ring again."

Capitol historian Mark Greenough says the tradition dates back to the 1840s, when leaders in the General Assembly decided to ring a bell to summon lawmakers to the House and Senate. The bell was eventually taken out of the tower until the 1930s, when it was returned.

"And slowly but surely people got the idea that we should resume a 19th century tradition of ringing the bell when the General Assembly went into session."

Greenough says that in the age of smart phones, lawmakers don't really need the bells anymore. But he says it's a great old tradition, and Virginia is a state that carefully guards its traditions.