Whats Up There? A Look Inside DU’s Williams Tower

We’ve talked about Williams Tower in what has become an iconic fixture in South Denver. The tower stands 215 feet tall and can be seen for miles away from the campus. Locally, the bells toll time for students and residents alike. While many people have seen the gleaming tower as they pass the University of Denver or go to sporting events, few get to experience the ‘inner-workings’ of the tower.

So, we had to take a look for ourselves.

And, as hard as it may be to believe, the inside is as spectacular as the outside.

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The view inside the Williams Tower from the Gottesfeld Room.

Starting on the 4th floor west side of Ritchie Center, the inside of  Williams Tower is decorated with ornate fresco murals which begin in the Gottesfeld Room. There are colorful hand laid mosaic tiles that run all the way up to the tower dome, below the carillon room. Artistic detail that few people ever get to see and appreciate.

A door adjoining the Gottesfeld room leads you up a stomach churning ninety-five step single-file twisting staircase which puts you, eventually, in the carillon room. If you don’t like heights or confined spaces, this trek is not for you.

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A view from the steps down to the Gottesfeld Room

The tower houses the school’s grand carillon with a 65-bell instrument, the eighth largest carillon in North America, and one of only 23 in the world. While it resembles an organ, instead of pipes the instrument uses bells and is played with the fists instead of fingers. The bronze bells weigh up to 65 tons. An electronic box operates the bells which ring on Westminster quarters – every 15 minutes. Songs are played by students, instructors and/or guests.

Carol Lens, an adjunct professor from the Lamont School of Music, is the official University Carillonneur. Lens manages live music performances around noon during the school term and summer recitals 7 pm on alternate Sundays. They also perform recitals during holidays and special events.

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The carillon sits immediately below the gold leaf spire.

While there are formal ‘carillon concerts’ during the year, students from the Lamont School of Music are often in the tower playing seasonal, spiritual, non-denominational and contemporary songs on the Carillon. Nothing sounds more collegiate than the sound of the bells when walking around campus.

And the biggest mystery to us – How did they ever get the carillon up there?

The attention to detail both outside and inside Williams Tower is an architectural treasure that would be nearly impossible to duplicate today, only 21 years after its construction.

10 thoughts on “Whats Up There? A Look Inside DU’s Williams Tower”

    1. I believe they give tours after concerts but they must be small groups. Let me get details and I will post in the comment section. Thank you.

    1. As a Jersey resident, Dunker makes chin music with his fists. If the Tower was in Carteret, he would outfit the Tower with vats of hot oil and marksmen.

  1. In order to schedule a tour of the tower, contact Carol Lens – carol.lens@du.edu. She usually conducts tours around noon. Please contact her in advance for a time slot.Depending on the schedule and other events at the Ritchie Center, you may need to be flexible but she is very accommodating.

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