Part of the Tower Group (with Hutchinson
Commons, the Reynolds Club, and Mandel Hall), Mitchell Tower
is officially the John J. Mitchell Tower, honoring the Chicago
financier who gave $50,000 for its construction. For the
tower—dedicated December 22, 1903—the architects
took as their model the Magdalen College tower at Oxford
University. Like Magdalen it contains ten bells. lnstalled
in 1908 in memory of the University’s first dean of
women, Alice Freeman Palmer, the chimes—at the request
of Chicago athletic director Alonzo Stagg—were rung
each night at five minutes past 10 to remind his athletes
that it was time to be in bed.
The Palmer chimes provided a venue
for another bow to old England: the art of change ringing.
The cacophonus permutations of notes had enough neighborhood
critics that in 1911 change ringing was banned. Reinstated
in the 1960s, it continues today to more positive reviews.
Other noises from Mitchell Tower
regularly emerge over the airwaves of FM radio station WHPK.
Then there are the moans of undergrads who carelessly step
on the bronze seal embedded in Mitchell’s ground floor
and realize that, according to local lore, they won’t
graduate in four years.