SAN FRANCISCO — A 5,330-pound church bell owned by the Archdiocese of San Francisco since 1889 has been stolen from the grounds of St. Mary’s Cathedral, apparently for the scrap value of its copper.
The bell was reported missing at 11 a.m. Oct. 24. It has been on a concrete slab in a garden in front of the cathedral at Geary Boulevard and Gough Street since 1970.
“We cannot replace this historic and valuable item,” said George Wesolek, director of communications and public policy for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. “Hopefully, the police will recover it, and we can put it back in its rightful place as a memory of the Catholic Church in San Francisco.”
The bell — the size of the Liberty Bell, 62 inches in diameter — was forged by McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore. It was given to the church by a San Rafael man, Duriham Carrigan, who was born in New York in 1839 and died in San Rafael in 1889.
It was placed in the former St. Mary’s Cathedral at Van Ness and O’Farrell Street the year Carrigan died. When that building was destroyed by fire in 1962 the bell was transferred to the site of the new cathedral as a memorial and historical artifact of the previous cathedral.
The estimated replacement value of the bell is $75,000. The current scrap value of copper is approximately $2 to $2.50 a pound. The genuine bell-metal component of the stolen item is 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin.
San Francisco Police Inspector Brian Danker said he is canvassing the neighborhood, asking neighbors if they saw any unusual activity around the cathedral property. He said a hydraulic lift could move the bell.
Copper theft is a plague in the Bay Area, he said. “The worst nightmare going for a contractor in San Francisco or the Bay Area is to make the mistake of going on a three-day weekend. You come back to your job site and see copper has been ripped out of your building,” said Danker.
The archdiocese is offering a reward in the case.