On July 20, 2000, the Theatre Organ Society of the Delaware Valley entered into an agreement with the Association for the Colonial Theatre to install a pipe organ owned by TOSDV in the Colonial Theatre located in the Borough of Phoenixville, Pa. The purpose of the installation would be to enhance the diversity and quality of the theatre presentations. The agreement also provides the Theatre Organ Society the opportunity to hold four organ concerts each year, open to the public.
Although the Theatre Organ Society had a two-manual, 17 rank, Wurlitzer Organ in hand and planned for this project, In January of 2002, it was learned that a more desirable instrument could possibly be obtained.
Wurlitzer Opus 585, originally an 18 rank, 260 special, has had an interesting history. It was built and originally installed in Shea’s Hippodrome Theatre in Buffalo, New York in 1922. The organ remained in the theatre until 1957 and was played by many famous organists during this time. In May of 1957, the organ was purchased by Harold Logan of Niagara Falls, Ontario and installed in his residence. In 1974, Bob Breuer had plans to build a “Pizza & Pipes” restaurant in Fresno, California and purchased the instrument from Logan. Finally, in March of 1977, the new restaurant opened and the instrument came back to life. By this time, it had been expanded to 23 ranks.
The restaurant was very successful and the organ was played on a daily basis until January of 1999 when the restaurant closed. At this time, a young theatre organ enthusiast from New Jersey, by the name of Roland Kurek heard that Opus 585 was for sale. He went to Fresno, saw and heard the organ and bought it on the spot. He had it dismantled, packed and shipped to a storage area in Manasquan, N.J. His dream was to have the organ installed in a public place so it could be enjoyed by everyone. Unfortunately, Mr. Kurek passed away in March 2000 and never realized his dream. In his will he stipulated that the organ be given to a worthy individual or organization who would keep it intact and install it in a place where it could be enjoyed by the public.
After negotiating since January 2002, with those responsible for settling the estate, the proposal by the Theatre Organ Society of the Delaware Valley to install Wurlitzer Opus 585 in the Colonial Theatre was accepted and the organ officially passed to the society on August 3, 2003. A generous endowment also accompanied the organ to aid in its restoration and installation.
The organ is a true theatre organ in every respect, including all of the customary traps, tuned percussions and sound effects. The organ has been moved from its storage location in New Jersey and preliminary work on the installation has already begun.
As mentioned above, a trust fund was set up by the Kurek estate to aid in its restoration and installation. However, the available funds are not sufficient to allow for all work to be done by paid professionals. Our budget has been prepared to make use of the trust fund money for those areas of the project requiring professionals with volunteers utilized wherever possible. Approximately 40% of the money in the budget is required for a new solid-state switching system and combination action, re-leathering supplies and parts, and console hardware. The remaining funds are allocated to pay for professionals to re-leather the main chests and reservoirs, install the new solid state components in the console, set up and shop test the organ, and install all of the main components in the theatre. Volunteers will be required to re-leather the off-set chests and tuned percussions, renovate the organ chambers, wash and repair pipe work, refurbish the console, prepare cabling and aid in installation.
This is a very exciting and interesting project. My hope is that all of the pipe work and associated components will be installed by the end of 2005. If all goes well, I would expect that the entire organ would be completed and playable by mid 2006. Of course, this will only be possible with the help and cooperation of our membership.
The successful completion of this project will be a noteworthy T.O.S.D.V. accomplishment, which should enhance our recognition within the society and hopefully help us to grow. I can assure all those who become a part of this project, a great thrill when you finally get to enjoy the fruits of your labor at the dedicatory concert.
Project Crew Chief