Artists Glenda Miles and Rex Combs install the Verdin Bell Wednesday morning at the Pendleton Art Center in downtown Middletown. First-time visitors to the PAC will be encouraged to ring the bell in honor of the late Jim Verdin, the driving force behind the center. The bell will be dedicated at 5 p.m. Friday. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

This new bell will welcome visitors to one of Middletown’s ‘best-kept secrets’

The Verdin PAC Bell will be dedicated at 5 p.m. today during First Friday’s “Art Around Town.” First Friday is held from 5 to 9 p.m. the first Friday of every month.

In honor of Jim Verdin and his descendants, all first-time visitors to the Pendleton, which is celebrating its eighth anniversary, will be encouraged to ring the bell as their welcome to one of “the best-kept secrets” downtown, said Sue Wittman, owner of Artique.

MORE: Middletown embraces Pendleton Art Center

Last fall, several business leaders approached Jill Crew, real estate manager for PAC and daughter of Jim Verdin, about creating a ritual. Since Verdin Co. manufactures bells, it became an ideal option to start a tradition for PAC. Artists Rex Combs and Glenda Miles created a specially designed featured post to house the Verdin PAC Bell that will be located just inside the main entrance of the PAC, 1105 Central Ave.

Verdin, president and CEO of an iconic Cincinnati family-owned business founded in 1842, died Aug. 8, 2018 after a short illness. The Indian Hill resident was 82.

The name of the Verdin Co. is on countless bell towers, clock towers and carillons it has installed throughout the Cincinnati region.

Verdin and his partners restored the old St. Paul’s Church, which was threatened with closing. The church houses the Bell Event Centre and once housed the Verdin headquarters, which are still in Pendleton in the Cincinnati area.

He also championed Pendleton as an artist community and founded the PAC in Over-The-Rhine in 1991. It has since grown to house one of the world’s largest collection of artists under one roof.

Wittman, the first business owner to sign a lease in the PAC, credits the center for being the economic engine that has driven the revitalization of downtown. She said several businesses that started in the PAC — Mockingbirds, Miss Selby Soaps and Flores Leathers Works — either opened store fronts in Middletown, or outgrew their space.

She said the Pendleton brought “name recognition” to Middletown since the art center with the same name helped resurrect OTR in Cincinnati.

“It has done the same thing here in Middletown,” Wittman said. “It really has meant a lot to what’s happening in Middletown. It gave credence to what Middletown could do as an arts community.”

Wittman said it’s amazing after eight years how many people walk into the PAC and say, “I had no idea this was here.”

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