The Largest Pipe Organ in the World

(depending on how you count)

Atlantic City Convention Hall, New Jersey

By Arthur Goulet


The auditorium organ at Atlantic City Convention Hall is the Boeing 747 of pipe organs, with a console as intimidating as a 747's cockpit. This huge instrument has 33,112 pipes in 455 ranks (including a full-length 64' Diaphone Profunda, ten 32' ranks, and a potent manual and pedal reed under 100" pressure). The organ is powered by newly-installed blowers that approach 1,000 horsepower! The console, located on the stage of the 41,000-seat auditorium, has 7 manuals, 1,255 speaking stops, and hundreds of additional controls. A tour of the entire organ takes 4 1/2 hours.

Unfortunately, this monumental organ has never been fully playable for various reasons, and the combination action (vital on an organ of this size) hasn't worked for decades; currently, about 140 of ranks are playable, and many of those are often far out of tune. It's no wonder-- it would require three technicians working full time to maintain this organ (to say nothing of repairing it), and there is only one curator.

Although this organ was built in America's "terrible 20's, " it has a surprisingly progressive design, with many mutation stops, mixtures, and other upper work, which results in a bright, broad, and full sound. The ensemble of the playable 140 ranks, mostly on 20" pressure or higher, has been described as a "massive wall of sound," even from the far end of the auditorium (and maybe from the far end of the Atlantic Ocean outside the front doors). Somewhere in there is claimed to be America's first low-pressure (3 1/2") Positiv division of 9 Baroque ranks (the Unenclosed Choir).

Oh, that's not all-- the Convention Hall's Ballroom (itself larger than Radio City Music Hall) has an excellent 1931 4-manual 55-rank Kimball hybrid concert/theater organ in good playing condition. And there's a great-sounding reed organ in the organ maintenance shop backstage.


Notes and photos by Arthur Goulet

Some Photographs

View of the console and the cage that surrounds it.
View of the author at the console.
View of the author at the console.
View of the console. Seated: Li-Yin Yeh.
View of console, right side.
View of console, left side.
Closeup of the author at the console.
Closeup of the author at the console.
Li-Yin Yeh at the console
Li-Yin Yeh at the console.
Surprisingly spacious interior of the console, showing manual action and left-side stop action.
Li-Yin Yeh standing beside the low CCCC pipe of the 32' pedal Diapason.


Facts and Figures on the Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ


Li-Yin Yeh standing beside the low CCCC pipe of the 32' Diapason

Size & Basic       Seven manuals (3 extended to 6 or 7 octaves), 
Facts              1,439 stop keys, 1,255 speaking stops, 455 ranks 
                   (approx. 140 now playable), 33,112 pipes.

Divisions          22 Divisions:
                   Pedal, Great, Grand Great, Solo, Woodwind, 
                   Great Ancillary, Swell,Choir, Unenclosed Choir, 
                   Grand Choir, String Organ Nos. 1, 2, & 3,
                   Brass Chorus, Fanfare, Echo, Reed-Diaphone Gallery 1, 
                   Flute Organ Gallery 2, Diaposon Chorus Gallery 3, 
                   Orchestra Reeds Gallery 4, Percussion.

Pipe and           Dozens of pipe chambers located behind grille screens 
Action             in eight locations around the auditorium, including 
Chambers           in the roof overhead.  Also rooms for relays, action, etc.


Largest pipes:     64' Diaphone Profunda, whose low CCCCC is 64'9" long, 
                   10" square at the base, 36" square at the top, and 
                   3" thick; made of a single tree that was at least 785 
                   years old!  The 12 lowest pipes contain more than
                   10,000 board feet of lumber, enough to build a house.

                   Also, there are ten 32' pedal ranks.  The 32' Open 
                   Diapasorns low CCCC is 38'6" long and weighs more than 
                   a ton all by itself

Most powerful     8' Tuba Imperial (Solo Div.) and 16' Ophicleide 
stop in the       (pedal extension);
 world            100" wind pressure.
   

Other unusual     Odd stops: Vox Baryton, Bugle, Contra Spire Flute, 
   Stops          Pileata Magna(Big Woodpecker?), Trumpet Melody, Jubal 
    &             Melody, Euphone, Egyptian Horn, Musette, Tibia Rex, 
 Gizmos           Dulzard Twelfth, Ocarina-- and an Unda  Maris (can it 
                  be heard in the 41,000-seat Hall?).
                  Unusual Gizmos: Pedal second-touch floating couplers.

Blowers           Multiple recently-installed new blowers, totalling 
                  nearly 1,000 horsepower.

Wiring            137,500 MILES of wire (enough to circle the earth 
                  5 1/2 times)

Wood used         225,000 board feet of lumber

Weight            Approximately 150 tons; main pipe chests supported 
                  by large steel beams and frames.

Builder and       Designed by Senator Emerson Richards, built by 
Construction      Midmer-Losh in Merrick. Long Island, New York. 
                  Required 100 technicians, four years.  Most of 
                  the larger pipes were fabricated inside Convention 
                  Hall.

Original cost     $400,000 in 1929.

Auditorium        Seats 41,000, all with unobstructed view. 
                  Located on the Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey USA.

Miscellaneous     30 tremolos, adjustable to various speeds by organist.
                  There are 12 remote keyboards in the pipe chambers, 
                  used for tuning and maintenance.
                  A now-disconnected five-manual "portable" console 
                  now sits in the lobby of the Hall.



And if you'd like to see more information, go here.
The Atlantic City Ballroom Theatre Organ
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