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According to “The Encylopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr. David L. Junchen, pg. 630, the “Colonial Th.” in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania had a Smith theatre pipe organ made by the Smith Unit Organ Co. of North Tonawanda, New York, and installed in 1916. This organ had Kinetic blower serial #E214, which was 1 horsepower and delivered wind at 10" static pressure. Mr. Junchen does not list the number of manuals or number of ranks of the organ in his book, since they were not known to him at the time of publication.
Does anyone know what happened to this organ, and where it, or its parts, are today?
Its existence today seems unlikely, given how the theatre was demolished in 1930 to make way for a new theatre, but during the depression and even before (during the early advent of talking pictures), many theatres sold their organs to poor churches who needed an organ for their services and could only afford one that was secondhand.
Thus, there’s a chance this organ survived in a second life as a church organ somewhere.
At least, I would love to have some photos of the organ and some more information about it, such as (at least) the number of manuals/keyboards in the organ console, and the number of pipe ranks it had.
Thanks a lot!-Andrew
P. S. the Smith and Geneva Pipe Organs history group is on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/104769223198776/
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr. David L. Junchen, pg. 630, the “Regent (Alhambra) Th.” in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, had a 2-manual Smith theatre pipe organ, installed in 1916.
Mr. Junchen didn’t give the # of pipe ranks in the organ, since he didn’t have that info at the time of publication.
This instrument apparently had the “Smith” nameplate meaning it was built in the first North Tonawanda, New York factory of Mr. Smith.
Also according to the book, it had Kinetic blower serial #D656, which was 1 horsepower and delivered wind at 10" static pressure.
Does anyone know what happened to this organ and where it (or its parts) are today?
I realize that with the fire + vandalism, etc. of this theatre, the organ may have been damaged or destroyed, but it was very common for theatres to sell old pipe organs in the 1930s and 1940s (and later) to churches desiring to get an inexpensive secondhand pipe organ to use (who didn’t care much about the distinctions of popular vs. liturgical instruments), and then during the theatre organ revival of the 1950s-1970s, many others were sold to hobbyists and enthusiasts who sometimes installed them in their homes.
Another, less common, scenario was for some hard up theatre owners to sell or donate the long-disused organ’s metal pipes for scrap for the war effort (during WWII), or, occasionally, to junk the entire instrument as “useless”!!! Fortunately, this did not happen as often as some form of preservation or survival, however temporary.
It is possible that no part of the organ was left in the theatre at the time of the fires/vandalism, so again, does anybody remember this organ and know what happened to it, or its parts, and where they are today?
Thank you very much,Andrew Barrett
P. S. you may also wish to view my Smith and Geneva Pipe Organs group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/104769223198776/
Mr. Tunney, however, says practically nothing about Brownsville-area theatre organs or organ music in columns #78 through #84, his long, well-researched (with many interviews with people who, in their youth, had actually worked in these theatres) series on the theatres of Brownsville, Pennsylvania.
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Pipe Organ”, by Mr. David L. Junchen, page 630, the “Bison Th.” in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, had a 2-manual Smith organ installed in 1915. This organ had Kinetic blower serial #D559, which was 1 Horsepower and delivered wind at 10" static pressure. Mr. Junchen did not give the # of pipe ranks in the organ in his book, because he did not have that information at the time of publication. I also don’t currently know how many ranks it had.
Mr. Junchen also gives the organ’s nameplate as “Smith”, which, in conjunction with the 1915 install date, means this was one of the small handful of organs built and installed by Mr. Frederick Smith’s fledgling first organ firm, the Smith Unit Organ Co. of North Tonawanda, New York.
This firm only built and sold a handful of pipe organs, before Mr. Smith made a deal with (coin piano and orchestrion maker) Mr. Seeburg in Chicago, and moved his pipe organ firm to Chicago in 1916.
The “Seeburg-Smith” organs subsequently built in Chicago and sold by Seeburg dealers between 1916 and 1921, were the most popular built and sold by any of Mr. Smith’s 5 successive organ firms… I believe they may represent perhaps as many as 2/3 to ¾ of all of the 200 or so Smith organs ever sold by all five companies
(1. “North Tonawanda” Smith (North Tonawanda, New York);
2. Seeburg-Smith in Chicago;
3. “Chicago” Smith (without Seeburg, still in Chicago);
4. Smith-Geneva (Geneva, Illinois);
5. “Alameda” Smith (Alameda, California).
Anyway, Smith organs of all types are quite rare today, and I would love to know:
does anybody know what happened to the Smith organ that was in the Bison Theatre in Brownsville, Pennsylvania?
Could it have been sold to a local church or organ enthusiast before the theatre’s demolition in 1962?
Do any parts or pieces of this organ, or photographs, documentation, or recordings, exist today?
I’d love to know more, thanks!
P. S. if you know more, why not join my Smith and Geneva Pipe Organs group on Facebook here?: https://www.facebook.com/groups/104769223198776/
It is too bad the Bison is gone.
According to Mr. Glenn Tunney in his June 4, 2000 article “AND THEN THERE WAS ONE:
ONLY THE PLAZA THEATER REMAINS”, available here:
… the Bison was torn down in the Summer of 1962. It had indeed opened in 1913, modernized for sound movies, and done a generally thriving business through the 1950s. What a shame! Does anyone have any decent photos of this theatre, especially the inside?
This is great that this vintage theatre is being restored!
Here’s more info on it and photos:
The theatre’s original 2/7 Wurlitzer organ (style 170, opus #435) later spent time in a rink in Seattle before being sold to a fellow in Bremerton, Washington. I don’t know if he still has it, or if he does, that he’d eventually be willing to sell it back to the theatre, but you never know…
What is the pipe organ supposedly now in the Palace Theatre in Silverton?
The theatre originally had a two-manual, four-rank Robert-Morton organ, which was later sold to the late Mr. Dale Haskin of Portland, who had it in storage with many other organs. He passed away in 2009 and his organ collection was reportedly “dispersed” to local theatre organ society members. I wonder if this organ went back to the theatre?
If not, it should!
Robert Mortons are great organs!
Here’s the details on the Joy Theatre in Vernonia:
And, here’s some pictures of the console of the theatre’s Aeolian theatre organ (one of only three they ever built, I believe… they mostly built residence and concert hall pipe organs), now in storage in a private residence:
Hope this helps!
Damn, it’s too bad this is gone.
One of my favorite musicals, “Snobs” with book by George Bronson Howard, and songs and instrumental (music and lyrics) by the show’s star, comedian Shep Camp, played in this theatre in March 1913.
I would have loved to have visited this place and walked around in the same place where the musical was held.
Are there any surviving photos of it?
Here’s the newspaper ad for “Snobs” at the theatre:
And… the sheet music to the most excellent “Milkman’s Rag” by Mr. Camp:
Hey! That’s fantastic that this theatre still exists and is being restored. I wish the team all the best and hope to come visit when it’s finished!
According to “the Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr David Junchen, pg 629, the “Fischer Th.” in Danville, Illinois, had a Smith theatre pipe organ installed at some point. No date of installation is given in the book, but I would assume it was before 1929 when the four rank Robert Morton organ was installed. No other information about this Smith organ is in the book, including size (number of manuals / number of ranks), nameplate (Seeburg-Smith, Smith, or Smith-Geneva), or blower info, probably because none of this was known to the author at the time of publication.
Does anyone know more about this organ and where it, or its parts, are today? Thanks!
At least one other Smith organ was traded in for a Robert Morton organ: the one in the California Theatre in Pittsburgh, California. Interestingly, both organs still exist: the ten-rank Morton is currently being restored and reinstalled in that theatre, while the Smith is currently with a private owner, having spent time as a church organ in the interim.
I’m wondering if a similar situation could exist here: do both the Smith and Robert Morton organs from the Fischer Theatre still exist?
It is too bad that this theatre burned down. However at least there’s the one photo of it (and, I hope, more).
According to “the Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr David Junchen, pg. 629, the “Rialto Th.” in Elgin, Illinois, originally had a three-manual Smith theatre pipe organ, installed in 1923. The organ had Spencer blower number 14426. Unfortunately, Mr Junchen did not have any additional information on the organ at the time of publication of the book, such as number of pipe ranks, or additional blower info horsepower, static pressure).
Of course, given what happened to this theatre, plus the disdain that some theatre organ enthusiasts had (and, still have), for Smith organs, it is not very likely that it was bought/rescued by an early theatre organ enthusiast before the fire.
However, in my research I have identified at least a dozen Smith organs that were sold from theatres to churches in the 1930s-1940s, when many churches were too poor to afford a new organ and the theatres considered them surplus equipment after sound movies came in. These resales ensured the organs' survival for at least a few more decades.
At three manuals and (probably) from 10 to 12 ranks of pipes, this organ would have been amongst the very few larger theatre organs built by Mr. Smith’s short-lived own Chicago firm, the Smith Unit Organ Company, after the successful Seeburg – Smith partnership ended in 1921, and before he moved to Geneva, Illinois in 1924 to found what would later become the Geneva Organ Company.
As the builder of my beautiful two-manual console, I have an especial interest in all of the organs built by this small company and would love to know more about this one. Thanks!
Dear Mr. Joe Vogel, thank you for your great comment! I am a Smith and Geneva pipe organ enthusiast (I own two of them, or rather, the remains of two of them) and was wondering what happened to this organ. Details below. I certainly hope this organ was not thrown out and will contact the Trinity Lutheran Church of Nokomis as soon as possible.
The organ originally installed in the “New Palace Th.” (as per Mr. David Junchen’s “Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ”, volume 2, pg. 629, was a Seeburg – Smith, made in Chicago, Illinois. Unfortunately, Mr. Junchen did not have any additional information about this organ at the time of publication of his book, such as size (number of manuals/number of ranks), install date, or blower info.
However, he did note that the organ’s nameplate was “Seeburg – Smith” meaning that the organ would have been built and installed between 1916 and 1921.
If I ever find out any more about this organ I will post it here. Hope this helps! and 1921.
If I ever find out any more about this organ I will post it here. Hope this helps!
It’s too bad that this theatre was demolished long ago.
According to ‘The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ", volume 2, by Mr. David Junchen, (pg 629), the “Peerless Th.” in Kewanee, Illinois, originally had a two-manual, ten-rank Seeburg – Smith theatre pipe organ, installed in 1921.
Ten ranks was quite large for a Smith organ, as most organs built by this succession of firms were between four and nine ranks; very few organs over 9 ranks were ever built by them.
The organ had a Kinetic blower, serial number J132, which had a 2 horsepower # and delivered wind at 10" static pressure.
Does anybody know what happened to this organ, and where it, or its parts, are today? Thanks!
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr. David Junchen, pg. 631, the “Lincoln Th.” in Cheyenne, Wyoming, originally had a 2 manual, 6 rank Smith theatre pipe organ installed at some point.
No further information about this organ, such as install date, blower information (horsepower and wind pressure), or nameplate (Seeburg-Smith, Smith, Smith-Geneva, or Leathurby-Smith) is given in this book’s listing (not available at the time of publication).
Given what Mr. Vogel has written about the Lincoln Theatre opening in 1927, it seems this house must have had a Leathurby-Smith organ (or at least, the latest type of Smith organ built in Alameda, California from circa 1925 to 1928, and frequently sold along the West Coast by Leathurby who was a San Francisco-based dealer).
IF this is true and there was no earlier “Lincoln Theatre” in Cheyenne with a Smith organ, then this would be the first (and so far, only) Leathurby-Smith (or “California-built Smith”) organ I’ve seen sold East of the Western states (all of the others of which I’m aware were originally sold to California, Oregon, or Washington state).
Does anybody know more about this organ, and where it, or its parts, is/are today? Thanks!
Aw dang! At least the Walnut is still standing and in use, and so is the Lark (another nice old theatre).
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ”, pg. 629, the “Sourwine Th.” in Brazil, Indiana, had a two-manual Seeburg-Smith theatre pipe organ installed in 1919. The size of this instrument (# of ranks) is not given in the book (not known at the time of publication). This organ had Kinetic blower serial #G381, which was 2 horsepower and delivered 10" of static wind pressure.
Does anybody know what happened to this organ, and where it, and/or its parts, is/are today? Thanks!
I can no longer see the postcard view of the Sourwine. Does someone else have an additional view to share, or could they re-upload the postcard to another site besides Ancestry? (the site where the postcard was originally posted). Thanks!
From whence deriveth the theatre name “Sourwine”? There must be a great story in there somewhere!!!
Is this theatre building still standing? Are there any photos of it, and/or does someone have a street address showing where it was located? Thanks!
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr. David Junchen, pg. 629, the “Riviera Th.” in Anderson, Indiana originally had a Smith theatre pipe organ installed at some point.
No further details, such as size of the organ (# of manuals / # of ranks), install date, blower info, or nameplate (Seeburg-Smith, Smith, Smith-Geneva) are given in the book (not known at the time of publication).
Does anybody know what happened to this organ and where it (or its parts) is/are today? Thanks!
Good to see that this theatre building SEEMS to be still standing, and in use as a church. Are there any interior or exterior photos of it from its days as a theatre?
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ”, pg. 629, the “Orpheum Th.” in Elkhart, Indiana originally had a two-manual Seeburg-Smith theatre pipe organ installed in 1920. The size of the instrument (# of ranks) is not given in the book (not known at the time of publication). This organ has/had Spencer blower serial #10866, which was 2 horsepower and delivered wind at 10" static pressure.
Does anybody know more about this organ and where it (or its parts) is/are today? Could it still be installed and in use in the building as a church organ?
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr. David Junchen, pg. 629, the “Lincoln Th.” in Goshen, Indiana, had a Smith theatre pipe organ installed at some point.
No other information, such as size (# of manuals / # of ranks), install date, blower info, or nameplate (Seeburg-Smith, Smith, or Smith-Geneva) is given in the book, meaning that this info was not known at the time of publication.
Does anybody know any more about this organ, and where it, or its parts, is/are today?
Does anybody know any more about this theatre and know when it opened and when it was demolished?
Are there any interior or exterior photos?
It’s too bad this theatre is gone. It looks like it was a nice one. Oh well, that’s the way it goes.
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr. David Junchen, pg. 629, the “Tivoli Th.” in Michigan City, Indiana, originally had a two-manual, 9-rank Smith theatre pipe organ installed at some point. The book does not have any additional info, such as install date, or blower info, but it DOES say, with some finality, that the organ’s nameplate was “Smith”.
From my meager research, relatively few Smith theatre organs under Mr. Smith’s own ownership/leadership of the company were built, first a handful in his first factory in North Tonawanda, New York, and then a few more (probably two dozen or so) in the factory in Chicago between 1921 and 1924, when the company relocated to Geneva, Illinois.
Only a few Smith organs were built in Geneva (“Geneva-Smith”) in 1924-1925, before Mr. Smith left for California in 1925 and the Geneva Organ Co. was reorganized as its own separate entity (and the designs of their organs changed from Smith in some ways).
Mr. Smith’s own last firm in Alameda, California (with most instruments sold by the Leathurby store in San Francisco as “Leathurby-Smith” organs) also only apparently built about two dozen or so organs.
By far, the majority of Smith organs built (probably over 100 of them) were built in the Seeburg factory in Chicago under the Seeburg-Smith partnership between 1917 and 1920, and usually bore the “Seeburg-Smith” nameplate, although a few of them bore the nameplates of prominent dealers, such as Kramer.
Thus, given that this theatre was built in 1922, the organ must have been a Chicago “Smith” organ, built around 1922-1924 and installed around that time (likely, but not necessarily, installed before the theatre’s grand opening).
Does anybody know where this organ, and/or its parts, is/are today? 9 ranks was on the large side for a Smith organ. Thanks!
Was the Ritz ever known as the “Loomis” Theatre, or was there another “Loomis” Theatre building located either on this site (I don’t know the address), or elsewhere in Peru, Indiana? I have a listing for a Smith theatre pipe organ installed at such a theatre in 1921, but don’t have a page to put it. Thanks!
Also, is this Ritz’s building still standing? The buildings in the Google Map view look old enough, but I’m not sure. Thanks!
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr. David Junchen, pg. 629, the “Washington Th.” in Richmond, Indiana, had a two-manual Smith organ installed at some point.
No further information, such as size of the instrument (# of pipe ranks), install date, blower info, or nameplate (Seeburg-Smith, Smith, Smith-Geneva, etc) is available in the book (not known at the time of publication).
I know this is is a long shot, given that this building was torn down in 1935 in the height of the great depression, when theatre pipe organs were considered most useless and most unwanted in most parts of the US, (and thus it’s likely the organ went down with the building), but does anybody know what happened to this organ, and where it, or its parts, is/are today? Could it have been moved to a church in the greater Richmond area?
Thanks a lot,Andrew
Dear folks, it is wonderful to see that this grand old theatre is still standing, restored, and in use for its intended purpose with the performing arts! Wonderful!
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr. Dave Junchen, pg. 629, the “Mars Th.” in Lafayatte, Indiana, originally had a Seeburg-Smith theatre pipe organ installed in 1920. This organ had Kinetic blower serial #I518, which was 2 horsepower and produced 10" of static wind pressure. The size (# of manuals and # of ranks) of the organ is not given in Mr. Junchen’s book, meaning it was not known at the time of publication.
Does anybody know what happened to this organ, and where it, or its parts, is/are today? Thanks!
It would appear from the wording of Mr. Ross' synopsis/history/article above that the Seeburg-Smith organ was replaced by a Wurlitzer in the 1970s/1980s as part of the building’s transition into the “Long Center for the Performing Arts”.
However, the TheatreOrgans.com list of original theatre organ installations shows that a Wurlitzer model 235SP (the standard model 235 was a 3 manual, 11 rank organ), Opus 893, was shipped from the Wurlitzer factory on August 30, 1924, and installed in the “Mars Theatre” in Lafayette, Indiana.
1924 is quite a lot earlier than the 1970s/1980s!
Are there any Indiana members of the American Theatre Organ Society who can chime in here with more info about this theatre and the two (+?) organs that were/are installed here? Thanks!
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr. David Junchen, pg. 629, a Seeburg-Smith theatre pipe organ was installed in the “Luna Th.” in Lafayette, Indiana, in 1918. This organ had Kinetic blower serial #F462, which was a 2 horsepower blower.
No further details on the organ, such as size (# of manuals / # of ranks), or the static wind pressure of the blower, are given in the book (not known at the time of publication).
It is known that Wurlitzer installed a style “E Special” (special/customized version of the style E, which was a two-manual, seven-rank theatre pipe organ) in this theatre in 1925, presumably replacing the earlier Seeburg-Smith instrument. User gorhamzoro was directly involved with the removal of the remains of this Wurlitzer organ and would/will know more about it.
However, it is not known (at least to me) what actually became of the Seeburg-Smith organ. Was it sold to another theatre, to a church, to a lodge hall, to a private home, or to a mortuary? All of these are possibilities.
The other possibility is that it was simply junked at the time, but this doesn’t seem as likely to me as having happened in 1925, since organs were still viable in theatres and used at that time, and thus had value.
Does anybody know where this organ, or its parts, is today? Thanks!
Dear gorhamzoro, could you please provide more details on the Wurlitzer organ you got from the Luna Theatre?
Was this the model E Special, Opus 1154, shipped from the Wurlitzer factory on September 9, 1925? (That is the organ listed for this theatre on the TheatreOrgans.com list of original theatre organ installations).
What made it a “Special”? was the organ divided (two chambers, more normally called a model “EX”), or did it have more percussion effects, or a special-order pipe rank substituted for one of the standard pipe ranks, or ???
What happened to the remaining parts of this organ? Do you still have them, or did you sell them to various people? I should send you an email since you probably won’t see my post here for quite some time.
Also, do you have any information on the Seeburg-Smith organ that was installed at the Luna Theatre before the Wurlitzer? I am about to make another post detailing what little I know about this instrument, but I’m curious to know what happened to it after the Wurlitzer was installed. Was it taken in on trade to Wurlitzer, or sold to another theatre or a church?
Are, or were, there any Smith organs installed in churches in the greater Lafayette area? Thanks!
*Never mind, I just read Mr. Joe Vogel’s comments above, a little more carefully. OK, it makes more sense for the theatre to have been in a razed/remodeled section of downtown than out in the middle of nowhere, cool! I hope we can figure out how to get the map to show the correct former theatre site, instead of what it shows now.
Also, Mr. Vogel’s quote from “Moving Picture World” mentioning a “Seeburg Piano” being installed at this theatre, undoubtedly refers to a Seeburg photoplayer (the various models of which were advertised as “Seeburg Pipe Organ Orchestras”), although Seeburg dealers were also known to sell the relatively large Seeburg G and H orchestrions to very early movie theatres, where they would be turned on and let play totally uncoordinated with the picture, either for background music, or for entertainment and intermission music between shows (these orchestrions, being keyboard models, could also be played by hand as a “straight” piano alone, and a very rare variety of the model G was provided with extra pedals, stop controls, and a special roll frame transmission that allowed the musician to stop the roll and play the entire orchestrion by hand from the keyboard and foot pedals, like a photoplayer).
Most of these orchestrion theatre sales, however, must have happened in around 1912 and 1913, when the G and H orchestrions were first put on the market for sale.
This is because Seeburg introduced its line of photoplayers / Pipe-Organ Orchestras starting in 1914 with the model M, followed by the models S, R, and at some point, A DeLuxe, T, V, P, Q, and W (I do not know the order or dates of the introduction of these models yet).
Of course, once theatre owners/builders had an orchestal instrument available that could be played entirely by one person (with rolls or manually) and have its music coordinated with the picture, they generally chose this option, and thus sales of regular coin pianos and orchestrions to theatres must have taken quite a nosedive in 1914-1915.
I also do not know what kind of Seeburg instrument this particular theatre had in 1916, although it was quite likely a photoplayer, probably a larger one if it was later replaced by a Seeburg-Smith theatre pipe organ (although it is also possible that the theatre building itself was enlarged).
Both Seeburg photoplayers and Seeburg-Smith theatre pipe organs are quite rare today (I know of fewer than 20 Seeburg photoplayers extant, many of them being quite incomplete, and only a handful of Seeburg-Smith pipe organs), although purportedly around 1,000 Seeburg photoplayers and perhaps around 75-125 Seeburg-Smith pipe organs were originally built.
Hope this helps or entertains someone!
According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ” by Mr. Dave Junchen, pg. 629, the “Rialto (Family) (Lincoln Square) Th.” in Indianapolis, Indiana, had a two-manual, 7-rank Seeburg-Smith organ installed at some point.
No other information on this organ, such as blower make, number, or specs; or install date, is listed in the book (not known at the time of publication).
Does anybody know where this organ, or its parts, is/are today? Thanks a lot!
It is weird to look at the Google Maps street view of the former theatre site, and see not merely a vacant lot in an urban or formerly-urban-looking area, but an actual DIRT MOUND (or dirt patch) with long grass, in the bend of an (obviously more recent) freeway!
Things can change quite a lot in 95 years, can’t they?