From: Al Sefl, Sep 2002

That organ is originally from the State Lake Theatre in Chicago. For some 20 years we used it in San Francisco every Friday evening for our silent movies and for concerts. It was featured in several ATOE and ATOS National Conventions. Sadly the neighborhood got so dangerous that only those with gun permits would attend. The organ was taken out of the wonderful acoustical environment of the Avenue Theatre and put into storage where it suffered from some dampness. The owners of the organ junked the relay which was somewhat of a crime because I could have gotten it working again without much effort. I built a Z-tronics relay for them and they put the organ into the Towne with big hopes of continuing the silents. For a while it worked and the acoustics were not too bad but then the separate owners of the theatre decided to cut the theatre up to increase seat sales. Interest fell off, Bob Vaughn, the master of the silent film fell into ill health, and a small box office take made the Sunday Silents unprofitable.

Now as to the organ. It is a Style 240 with added ranks to bring it up to 17 ranks when current additions are completed. The ranks are Concert Flute, Salicional & Celeste, VDO & Celeste, Vox Humana, Open Diapason, Horn Diapason & Celeste, Clarinet, Tibia Clausa, Tuba, Brass Trumpet, Orchestral Oboe, Kinura, Saxophone, and English Horn. Notable additions were the 16' Tibia Clausa octave and 16' octave of super large scale Wood Diaphones from the California Theatre in San Francisco. The 32' octave was lost when the demolition contractor would not let the removal crew (Ron Downer & Charlie Hershmann + other unnamed individuals) take them out past a deadline. These were scaled with a 42" opening on CCCC and it would make Market Street outside shake when they were used. Shook up a lot of '06 Quake survivors so the ventil switch was mostly on to keep them off! But I digress. The piano is an addition as is several other traps and percussions.

I will be going down to work on the organ some Sunday soon before the matinee. While the organ rarely gets played for audiences, a number of us still maintain it and keep it ready for the next Theatre Organ Rebirth!

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