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Originally constructed in 1872 as a fire alarm bell for the city of Savannah, Big Duke Bell is a unique historical landmark in the Chatham community. The iconic bell was given its fun nickname in honor of Alderman Marmaduke Hamilton, chairman of the City Council Fire Committee (1871–73), when the bell was purchased. Although Big Duke Bell was built as a fire alarm, it evolved into a general alarm for police and military. Big Duke was also used to announce special occasions, such as the end of the Spanish–American War and honoring our troops upon their returns from various wars. In 1985, Big Duke was officially retired from its original purpose and moved into a memorial for all local firefighters.
Big Duke City Fire Bell is currently located in the median of Oglethorpe Avenue, near fire department headquarters. It is open to the public, with free access seven days a week.