Monday, March 28, 2011

Chauncey Griswold Bevin

Known as Belltown since the mid 1800s, East Hampton was the epicenter of an international market of talented bell makers and manufacturers in an industry that produced and shipped millions upon millions of bells and related products. The premier manufacturer was, Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Co., which continues is operation today, 179 years after its founding. Started in 1832 by brothers Abner, William, Chauncey and Philo, the company grew from the roots and apprenticeship with William Barton and his sons, founders and first bell makers of this fabled industry. Barton was noted for his generosity and willingness to train young apprentices is his trade, production methods and secrets and encouraged those who worked with him to venture out and ply their trade in their own enterprises. In 1946, Bevin Bros. President, Chauncey Griswold Bevin, was honored at the 55th Annual Congress of the National Association of Manufacturers as being one of the oldest active business leaders in the world. At 95, Bevin had overseen the transformation from the 35 or so small foundry shops that sprang from the Barton first foundry just south of their family home at 25 Barton Hill, to modern large scale production and worldwide clientele. Known to all in the community, his employees and his extensive family as “Uncle Chan,” Bevin was also a founder of the Gong Bell Mfg. Co., a worldwide maker of children’s toys incorporating bells. These toys were the first to use the Walt Disney characters in their designs - endearing cartoon personalities such as Mickey Mouse. And ironically, when honored, two other local businessmen and company Presidents, N. N. Hill of the N. N. Hill Brass Co., age 84, and Clifford M. Watrous, of the Gong Bell Mfg. Co., age 74, remained active in their respective companies. Maybe it was something in our local water, but Bevin stated in an interview, “I’ve never had to go to a hospital in my life. Of course I don’t work like I used to. I try to be temperate in all things. Always was. Don’t drink. I cut out cigarettes a few years ago. I felt better.” Chauncey built his home on Bevin Court on a piece of land purchased from his father Abner, overlooking the family manufacturing plants. This spectacular circa 1880 Queen Anne style country home in the middle Victorian Period presented, in a tasteful manner, the wealth and success befitting the successor to the founders of the Bevin Bros. Manufacturing Co. The Bevin family, among the early settlers of Chatham and the East Hampton society were strict Congregationalists. Moderation and hard work were ingrained in their demeanor and lifestyle, thus the exterior of the home did not present some of the more decorative embellishments of other Victorian architecture. Those features were showcased within the four walls.

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