Sacramento resident’s dream bell tower has holiday visitor: Santa Claus

By Lance Armstrong

Greenhaven resident Bernard Kitt’s dream of building a bell tower on his home has come true, and this year, Santa has made a special visit. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Among the more unusual scenes in Sacramento this holiday season is a 4-foot tall, plastic Santa Claus waving from the interior of a bell tower.

Perhaps even more unusual is that the bell tower does not rise above a church.

It is instead part of the residence of Bernard and Anne Kitt.

At sundown every evening through at least Christmas Eve, a timer turns on a light inside this vintage, hollow Santa Claus and a colored string of lights above him. But by 10 p.m. each night, the timer shuts the lights off to abide by a homeowners’ association regulation.

Once again abiding by a regulation, the bell tower rises not an inch above 33 feet from the ground.

Because the roof of the Kitts’ home is 22 feet from the ground, the bell tower was constructed as an 11-foot-tall landmark.

The Kitts’ bell tower, which measures about 5 and a half feet wide, is a fully functioning bell tower, Bernard explained.

“I have it set so you can sit down up there and eat lunch or whatever you want to do,” he said. “There’s a bell in there with rope and everything, but it’s not connected to the front porch. I tried to connect it, but there were just ropes all over the place. It was a little crazy. But (the bell works). You can get up there and (ring it). It’s really loud.”

In continuing to comment on his bell tower, Bernard said that he is well aware of his unique status of owning the only home with a bell tower in the Pocket.

But being unique in that regard made no difference to Bernard when he made the decision to add a bell tower to his home. Instead, he noted that he simply wanted to fulfill one of his childhood dreams.

“(For many years), I wanted to put a bell tower on my house,” he said. “When I was in grammar school, we lived a few blocks away from (the University of California), Berkeley, and they had what they call the Campanile. It’s like a giant bell tower.

“You used to go in there and go up in an elevator and go up to the top and see all the bells, and walk around up there and everything. And I said, ‘God, I’ve got to get a bell tower.’”

Bernard said that he finally made arrangements to have his own bell tower constructed at his residence about two years ago.

“I had a handyman do it for me,” he said. “He was kind of a local guy. It took maybe a month (to build). The base is real stone – not imitation stone – and then there’s these four columns that are between 5 and 6 feet tall. Then there’s this copper roof that goes into a point, and then there’s a weather vane on the top.”

As for the bell tower’s sturdiness atop his home, Bernard said that it is very strong.

“It’s tied into the structure of the house,” he said. “It’s not just sitting there. Structurally, it’s sound. And the homeowners’ association approved it. You have to go through the homeowners’ association, if you make a change that’s a visible thing (to neighbors). And they gave the OK on it. If you had some nutty looking thing, they’re not going to say, ‘OK.’”

Bernard added that, to date, the bell tower has only received one complaint.

“This guy who was on the (homeowners’ association) board told me somebody across on the other side of the lake (complained about a glare caused by the tower),” he said. “When I first put it up, there was the new copper, and it was shiny. The sun was hitting it somehow, and shined it into their living room. But one week later, it was not shiny anymore.”

Bernard mentioned that he was able to get rid of the glare through a very inexpensive process.

“I looked into spraying it to make it antique green, like it’s 100 years old,” he said. “(The research) went on and on and on, and (there were) all these formulas and you mix these things up. They were really pretty complicated.

“And then I ran across this lady who wrote in on some discussion group, and she says, ‘I don’t know anything about this, but I read somewhere if you put on Miracle-Gro – a garden fertilizer – it turns to green.’ I had some, so I put it in a little bottle and sprayed it. It looked like it was 100 years old and (that appearance) hasn’t gone away.”

Bernard recalled that upon its completion, the bell tower drew curious looks from neighbors.

“We had the Keel Crawl, where all these people (in the neighborhood) go from house to house and have drinks or lunch or dinner,” he said. “And so, they came up to (the Kitts’ house) and I had just finished the bell tower.

“People were just a gasp. They were standing out there in the front just staring. I mean, they were not saying a word. They were just standing there, just immobilized, and just trying to take it in. They had never seen anything like that.”

Although Bernard generally does not spend more than an hour inside the bell tower when he takes on projects such as cleaning and caulking, because of his love for the tower, he said that he is considering an addition that could keep him in there longer.

“If there’s a TV (in the tower), I’ll sit for hours and hours and hours,” he said. “I think (placing a TV there) is an idea.”

Bernard, who has visited bell towers throughout the world, said that he has a fascination with bells that extends beyond bell towers.

Located at his residence are at least 20 bells of various sizes that he has accumulated throughout the years.

One of Bernard’s favorite bells of his collection is larger than the bell he had installed inside his bell tower, he said.

“I’ve got a way bigger bell in the (backyard) and it says U.S. Navy on it,” he said. “It’s really cool. It’s off of a battleship.”

In further pondering the realization of his childhood dream to have his own bell tower, Bernard said, “The one I’ve got in my house is really great. It really feels good to be in a bell tower. It really feels good.”

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