Replacing the organ at the Palace Theatre

posted by ERD on May 26, 2006 at 6:49 am

ALBANY, NY — I wrote to the manager of the Palace theatre about its organ which was removed some years ago. I suggested he replace it, and brought up the organ that was mentioned on Cinema Treasures. This is his reply:

Thank you for your message regarding the Theatre’s organ.

Although we do get a few such suggestions throughout the year, at this time there is no active plan to replace the organ at the Palace. Do you know of any community organization who might be interested in developing a grassroots movement to raise the necessary funds to accomplish this? If so, please have a representative contact me here at the Theatre. As a not-for-profit arts organization, we’re open to all sorts of ideas.

Thank you for your interest!
George P. Kansas
Director of Development

Perhaps there is some Cinema Treasures member that can help this theatre. It is such a shame the organ is gone.

Elliot R. Dorfman

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Comments (11)

Karen Colizzi Noonan
Karen Colizzi Noonan on May 27, 2006 at 2:22 am

Gee… this sounds like a challenge that would catch the interest of any Theater Organ group in the area! It would be wonderful to be able to enjoy silent film and theater organ concerts at this beautiful old theater. There must be an ATOS chapter out there just itching to start a huge new project!

deleted user
[Deleted] on May 27, 2006 at 5:39 am

There is the Hudson-Mohawk Chapter of the ATOS in that area. I’m not a member of that particular group, so I’m not sure whether they would get involved with that particular project or not. Interestingly enough, I found out that the New York State Museum in Albany apparently owns two theater organs, but currently has them in storage in a maximum security prison in the area! I e-mailed one of the Museum’s representatives, who told me that they had no current plans to reassemble either of them. It’s too bad one of these instruments couldn’t be installed in the Palace.

Menutia on May 27, 2006 at 2:37 pm

Well, all anyone needs is $$$ and time. There is an organ being sold by a club for around $10K and it’s in Patchogue, Long Island, NY.

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Karen Colizzi Noonan
Karen Colizzi Noonan on May 27, 2006 at 2:47 pm

Mike, i am surprised to hear about the organs owned by the NYS Museum. Any idea where they came from? The State has been very generous to the Palace and it seems to be a supported project for Senate Leader Joe Bruno and Gov Pataki too. I wouldn’t think it would take a whole lot of persuasion to arrange for the loan or even the deacession the organ from the Museum to the theater. Too bad i’m 3+ hrs away – i’d get involved in the project! (Because i am despirately in need of ANOTHER project to get myself involved in! HA!!)

deleted user
[Deleted] on May 27, 2006 at 3:45 pm

According to the Wurlitzer Opus List website at the museum’s organ, Wurlitzer Opus 1460, was first used in the Grand Theater in Albany, and then the Plaza Theater in Schenectady. It was then acquired by an individual in 1956 and put in storage until the NYS Museum got it it 1998. It apparently has remained in storage ever since. From what I understood from the Museum representative I corresponded with, they have no current plans of letting it out of their hands. Why they don’t is anyone’s guess at this stage. I wonder too if they actually have one organ with two consoles, and not two organs.

ERD on May 28, 2006 at 5:18 am

I have contacted Gov. Pataki and other political figures about the
Palce theatre. As part of the renovation, an organ should have been
replaced. I am glad to know there are other members interested in the Palce theatre as well.

tomdelay on May 29, 2006 at 3:20 pm

The original organ in the Palace was a 4 manual 23 rank Wurlitzer originally installed in the NYC Hippodrome Theatre. When the Hipp closed in the late ‘20s, the organ was moved to the new Albany Palace Theatre. While one on-line Wurlitzer opus list calls this organ a “Publix #1” organ, the Hipp/Palace organ was not of this style. The Hipp/Palace organ was a one of a kind design with a small 4-rank “floating” string division. The organ was somewhat similar to the 28 rank Wurlitzer that was in the Fabian Theatre in Patterson, NJ.

The Palace organ was removed in the early ‘60s (or late '50s?) and promptly broken up for parts. The console still exisits, but has been used for a large electronic organ. The rest of the organ was broken up and scattered. The 16’ English Horn from the Hipp/Palace organ was, for many years, added to the former Buffalo Shea’s Hippodrome (Center) Theatre organ when it was installed in a Fresno, CA pizza restaurant. I worked with this organ for several years when it “did time” in the restaurant.

Sad to say, but the opus 1460 mentioned above is a style H of 2 manuals and 10 ranks—this organ is far too small for a theatre of 2700 seats. Rather than take the intact opus 1460 and enlarging the organ, it would be better to find an intact, large instrument fitting of a theatre the size of the Palace. There are such instruments “out there” and quite likely capable of donation.

Karen Colizzi Noonan
Karen Colizzi Noonan on May 29, 2006 at 3:36 pm

ERD: Any time i have written to Gov Pataki’s office (in my role as President of Theatre Historical Society AND as a resident of the State of New York) i have always gotten a prompt acknowledgement but a detailed reply from Commissioner Bernadette Castro who heads up the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. (And odd pairing at best!)

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHiPO, as we call it) is sometimes painted as the “bad guy” but i know for a fact that a few of their staffers are really into historic theaters and have gone the extra mile to give advice and oversight when one comes on their radar screen.

I think that encouragement could be brought to the Palace management and Commissioner Castro to replace this missing piece of the grand old theater. If, as Tom says above, the one at the museum is not adequate, an investigation should be undertaken to see if a workable proposal can be put forth to the powers that be.

deleted user
[Deleted] on May 29, 2006 at 4:28 pm

What about the rare United States theater organ that is in the Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown, P.A? I heard that the place was boarded up and the organ was just sitting there unused. I wonder if the owner of the property would be willing to part with it, and if it would be big enough for the Palace?

tomdelay on May 29, 2006 at 5:26 pm

I know the US organ. I heard it in 1992. It is not large enough scale and high enough wind pressure to deal with a big room like the Palace. The Palace needs an organ of style 260 (3/15 minimum)or upwards, in Wurlitzer specs.

A large Robert Morton such as the organ originally in the Loew’s Providence would also work. The problem today is finding an instrument of worthy scale and wind pressure that has not been hoplessly changed and chopped up. There are a few such instruments out there. If enough interest gets at the going at the Palace, I can put these people in touch with such an organization in short order. I know of three suitable instruments right now without even thinking too hard on the subject. One such instrument is immediately open for donation—BUT—there must be evidence that the project will come to fruition and not languish in storage.

A project such as this should really be accomplished by a professional installation and restoration firm. This is how the “new” organ was handled for the former Loew’s Providence, now the Ocean State Performing Arts Center (?) in Providence, RI.

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