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Strand Theatre, Plattsburgh, NY

Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Co., North Tonawanda, NY. Opus 970, 1924

Console

Wurlitzer Opus 970, built in 1924 for the New Olney Theatre in Philadelphia, was donated to the Strand Theatre in Plattsburgh New York in 2004 by Leonard and Louise Johnson of Hingham, MA. The Johnsons had had the organ installed in their home since 1964. Though added to, the core of the eight-rank organ remained unaltered, including its original electro-pneumatic relay and combination action.

With sporadic funding, a volunteer group in Plattsburgh began restoration of the organ in 2005, under the direction of Jonathan Ortloff. From the outset, the goal of the project was strict restoration with no changes.

While the project maintained steady momentum, a generous gift in 2011 ensured the project’s completion by enabling Spencer Organ Company to complete the restoration and installation. In 2012 the entire organ was transported to the Spencer shop. There, remaining components, including the console and percussions, were restored, and the entire organ was assembled on new framing to suit the Strand’s organ chambers.

True to the original restoration goals, great pains were taken to blend all new work with the original Wurlitzer material. After many trials, a tinted shellac mixture was derived, mimicking the unique color of the Wurlitzer poplar, while still being recognizably new. Of note is the construction of all new windlines for the organ in rolled zinc, with cast lead flanges, following original Wurlitzer practice. In the Spencer shop, all new flanges were cast, and the windlines mitered and soldered. This is the first Wurlitzer ever to be restored to this degree.

All pipework was restored in the Spencer shop, including the three reed stops (Tuba, Clarinet, Vox Humana). The high-pressure Tuba, in particularly rough shape, received new metal inserts to replace torn or missing regulating flaps. The Vox Humana, which had been replaced with a spurious rank, was restored with a vintage Wurlitzer stop from 1924.

A five-week installation beginning in August, 2013 included the running of all new static windlines in soldered galvanized duct to each chamber and to the console. Following the mechanical installation, tonal finishing was completed by Clark Wilson and Jonathan Ortloff.

Main Chamber:
16′ Diaphonic Diapason – 85 pipes
16′ Bourdon/Concert Flute – 97 pipes
8′ Violin – 85 pipes
8′ Violin Celeste – 61 pipes
8′ Clarinet – 61 pipes
Chrysoglott – 49 bars

Solo Chamber:
16′ Ophicleide/Tuba Horn – 85 pipes
8′ Tibia Clausa – 73 pipes
8′ Vox Humana – 61 pipes
Xylophone – 37 bars
Glockenspiel – 30 bars
Cathedral Chimes – 25 tubes
Trap Trunk (untuned percussions and effects)

The Strand Theatre interior, seen from the Solo chamber

The Strand Theatre interior, seen from the Solo chamber

The Solo chamber of three ranks, including the powerful 16' Ophicleide on 15" wind pressure.

The Solo chamber of three ranks, including the powerful 16′ Ophicleide on 15″ wind pressure.

Vox Humana, Tibia Clausa, Tuba Horn in the Solo chamber. All pipes were restored in the Spencer shop.

Vox Humana, Tibia Clausa, Tuba Horn in the Solo chamber. All pipes were restored in the Spencer shop.

Replica zinc windlines with cast lead flanges, the first ever used in a Wurlitzer restoration.

Replica zinc windlines with cast lead flanges, the first ever used in a Wurlitzer restoration.

The Main chamber of five ranks, with the Chrysoglott elevated over the main chest.

The Main chamber of five ranks, with the Chrysoglott elevated over the main chest.

The Main chamber, with 16' Diaphone, 16' Bourdon, and 8' Diapason offsets.

The Main chamber, with 16′ Diaphone, 16′ Bourdon, and 8′ Diapason offsets.