Saturday, June 22, 2013

Another gem

It's really odd how sometimes it seems like you were just meant to stumble upon something meaningful.  So was the case when we visited a Macy's department store in Philadelphia and happened upon a woman explaining an organ that was in the store.  Yes, an organ, but not just any ole organ - The Wanamaker Grand Organ to be exact.

The organ itself is a beauty but the irony in stumbling upon it is that this organ was built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company for no other than the 1904 ST LOUIS World's Fair.  As a resident of the metro St. Louis area, I thought this was quite a coincidence.

With more than 10,000 pipes, its construction was on such a lavish scale that it cost $105,000.  That's a lot of dough for the early 1900's.  It's cost actually forced the builder into bankruptcy, but in 1909,Philadelphia  merchant John Wanamker bought it for his new Philadelphia emporium.

It took 13 freight cars to ship the organ from St. Louis, and its installation took two years.

On June 22, 1911, at the exact moment when England's King George V was crowned at Westminster Abbey, the Grand Organ was first heard in the Philly store's seven-story atrium.

Although it is massive in size, the tone was judged inadequate to fill the room so Wanamaker hired 40 full time employees and Supervisor William Boone Flemng to enlarge the instrument.  It was made with superb craftsmanship - its largest pipe being made of flawless Oregon sugar-pine three inchesthink and   more than 32 feet long.  

More than 8,000 pipes were added between 1911 and 1917, and between 1924 and 1930 an additional 10,000 pipes were added, bringing it to a total of 28,482 pipes today.

A console with six ivory keyboards controls it with 42 foot controls.  This console weighs 2.5 tons and the entire instrument weighs 287 tons.

Over the years, great organists have been invited to play the organ.  If you're ever in Philly, check with the Macy's staff to find out if someone is planning to play the organ while you are in town.

It is now a National Historic Landmark and is valued in excess of $71 million.

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