SAN FRANCISCO — The historic bell stolen Oct. 23 from the grounds of St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco was recovered Oct. 26 in West Oakland across the street from a scrap metal yard near the Port of Oakland docks, San Francisco police said.
The theft of the bell received widespread news coverage. Given to the church in 1889, the bell was in service at the former St. Mary’s Cathedral until it burned to the ground in 1962, when it was moved to the current cathedral site.
An informant notified San Francisco Police inspectors Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. that the 5,330-pound bell was resting on beams in a field in West Oakland, said Officer Albie Esparza.
Esparza said the bell was in an open public area and was covered with a tarp when inspectors found it. They then made plans to have it shipped back to San Francisco.
“We want to thank the media for their help in telling the public about this case, getting the picture of the bell out, the video, the interviews, so that we get the information to the public in this case and retrieve the bell,” said Esparza. “However, there are no arrests. The investigation is continuing.”
The archdiocese announced that the police said the bell is “dirty and covered with dirty canvas tarps, but it is intact.”
The announcement quoted San Francisco Police Inspector Brian Danker as saying the bell could have been very close to being broken down for its metal value.
“This is wonderful news, a mini-miracle of sorts, for the parishioners of the cathedral and all Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco,” said George Wesolek, director of communications. “The wide press coverage of the theft helped make it harder to get away with this.
“Our thanks to the public for their proactive response, to the press and especially for the effective work of the San Francisco Police Department. Now we need to find a way to bring the bell back to its place at the cathedral,” he said.
The archdiocese is offering a reward in the case.
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.
After the 1962 fire at the former cathedral, the bell was moved to the grounds of the new cathedral and placed in an outside garden.
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.
Copper theft is a plague in the Bay Area, according to Danker.
“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,” he said.