Racine man’s basement is home to a Mighty Wurlitzer and movie palace recreation
RACINE, WI — You would not guess it look at his house, but Fred Hermes basement is a temple to movie palace nostalgia. Over fifty years ago, Fred bought, restored, and installed one of only three known Wurlitzer five manual theater organs that the company ever built, Opus 1531, originally installed 1926 in the Rapp & Rapp Michigan Theater in downtown Detroit. It is set in a 150 seat replica of a movie palace created out of elements from over four dozen now gone theaters.
There’s also a full complement of real percussion instruments: cymbals, a marimba, a harp, a glockenspiel—all controlled from the keyboard console. Thirty-five hundred wires connect the organ console to its thousands of voices. A room-sized fifteen horsepower blower powers the organ’s air supply. A separate two horsepower motor powers the current to the pipes and other instruments.
Hermes spent 46 years restoring this unique artifact of musical, cinematic, and technological history. His remarkable achievements have been recognized by the American Theatre Organ Society and other groups.