AUBURN — The bells of St. Louis Church may toll again in New Auburn.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to allow paid city staffers to raise an estimated $12,000 in private donations. The money would be used to purchase the bells from the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, which oversees the city’s Catholic churches.

Eventually, the bells would be displayed in New Auburn, perhaps as part of a larger creation highlighting the city’s history, Al Manoian, the city’s economic development assistant, said.

Already, people have been offering donations to buy the historic bells, he said.

“The easy part will be acquiring them,” Manoian said. The more challenging process is when we go forward to do the great heritage monument.”

The four bells are being stored by Cote Crane. The company removed them last November, following the permanent closure of the grand, neo-Gothic church.

The bells were made by Paccard Bell, a 217-year-old foundry still operating in France. They were made in 1915, the same year the cornerstone was placed for the church building.

The church was designed by architect Timothy G. O’Connell, who designed St. Mary’s Church in Lewiston’s Little Canada neighborhood and would later design the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston.

However, after costly structural problems were found, St. Louis Church was slated for demolition.

The “magnificent, world-class bells” may serve as a reminder for the once-bustling church neighborhood, Manoian said. They may also serve to draw visitors to the city.

“They are of a class where people on the highway would say, ‘We have to go and look at those bells,'” he said. “Those bells were meant to inspire.”

Fundraising will be done alongside Museum LA, which would be able help donors receive a tax deduction for their gifts.

To kick off the initiative, the city is working with the Catholic parish and Cote Crane to display the bells in Festival Plaza by the end of June.

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