A spherical or dome-like vault on the top of an edifice, usually on a tower or steeple, as of a public building.
— Webster, 1882
Then the big new bell clanged in the cupola, and recess was over. -These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 24, “Almanzo Goes Away”
Although Webster defined a cupola as being a dome-shaped space at the top of a public building, usually on a tower or steeple, the cupola Laura Ingalls Wilder mentions in These Happy Golden Years (see Chapter 24, “Almanzo Goes Away”) was the square, roofed tower bell housing on the new graded school building in De Smet, dedicated in January 1885. The bell was rung at 8:35 each morning to let people know that school was starting soon; the late bell was run at 9. Similarly, the bell was rung at 1:10 in the afternoon to let students know that the lunch hour was over, and rung again five minutes later to let everyone know that anyone entering the building after that time was tardy.
The early photograph below shows the square cupola on top of the second schoolhouse in De Smet. A dome-shaped cupola can be seen in De Smet atop the Kingsbury County Courthouse, shown on the navigation button that brought you to this page.
cupola (THGY 24)