Racine man’s basement is home to a Mighty Wurlitzer and movie palace recreation

posted by CSWalczak on April 21, 2010 at 9:40 am

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.

There’s a news clip at Fox 6 and more details in Real Racine.

Theaters in this post

Comments (4)

Scott on April 21, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I’d hate to be paying the electric bill for that motor. Assuming 220 V service and a 3-phase motor, it’s probably drawing about 46 amps at full load. Maybe he plays really short songs. And he probably has no trouble hearing it, since it was built for a 4,000 seat auditorium.

irishcine on April 24, 2010 at 2:20 am

How amazing, especially as the house looked relatively small in the exterior shots. What a positive attitude he has.

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on April 29, 2010 at 12:42 am

This is absolutely amaaaaaaaaaaaazing! I’m stunned!!!

God bless Fred and all of his wonderful work… may he play on forever even when he reaches the big theater in the sky.

I’ve sent the Fox video link to myself and will forward it on to all of my “theater & organ nuts”.

Dramatrauma on May 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm

The man deserves a medal! His house should be preserved for future generations once he no longer wants to live in it! Lets get the National Registry paperwork started!

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