The organ was shipped from North Tonawnda on 8 November 1928 to the Colosseum theatre, Warsaw ( Poland ), where it was installed, judging by photographs, in chambers fronted by dummy pipes on either sides of the proscenium, the console in the centre of the pit.
Use of the organ was apparently only during the silent film era; it came to an end in 1930, when sound film apparatus was installed at the Colosseum. The organ was recorded in 1934 when it provided the sound track for a documentary film “Waraswa dawna i dzisiejsza”, which translates as “Warsaw Yesterday and Today”. So far I have been unable to obtain a copy of either the film or its sound track, but I understand copies of the first part of it do exist on video tape.
In 1936 it was removed to Roma Hall, Nowogrodzka Street , an establishment with religious connections, which in time became a philharmonic hall and later an opera house. The Roma Hall somehow survived the destruction of most of the centre of Warsaw during WW2, but the organ did suffer considerable damage in the Warsaw Uprising, evidenced today by bullet holes in the swell shutters. Not many Wurlitzers bear such honours of battle. The hall was used during the Nazi occupation for meetings and later by the Communist authorities. Some repairs were carried out by S Brzozowski in 1945-6, according to an inscription surviving inside one of the chests.
In 1953 the instrument was dismantled and moved to storage in a building at 49 Nowogrodzka Street, housed in a stairwell, not without sustaining further damage in the process . Plans were formulated to use the organ in St John’s Cathedral and its parts were moved there. Moves started to repair and reassemble the organ, but nothing concrete resulted except that parts from other war-damaged European theatre organs were collected to replace damaged and missing components.
In 1967, the organ became the property of an organists’ training establishment at All Saint’s church, Grzybowski Square , where its increasingly battered remains were stored in the basement. Here it suffered further depredations as parts were removed, in some cases stolen, for use in other organs. Eventually, by late 1989 what was left of the organ was moved to the Artibus Centre, where its restoration (or rather reconstruction) commenced.
In its present state it is difficult to determine how much Wurlitzer pipework it contains. As a Style 190, it would have started life with the following ranks: Trumpet (#2 style), Open Diapason, Tibia Clausa, Clarinet, Violin, Violin Celeste, Flute, Vox Humana.
According to the current specification and photographs it now contains the following six ranks:
Ø Pryncypal - with French-style mouths, rounded top and bottom, fitted with wooden bridges – definitely not Wurlitzer
Ø Gamba - Metal pipes – no clear photo. Cannot say whether Wurlitzer or not – probably not, as these would have been the most fragile of all the pipes.
Ø Flet kryty (“Critical Flute”) - No photo, so I cannot say whether it is the Wurlitzer Tibia or not
Ø Flet koncertowy (Concert Flute) - Photo shows Hohl Flute-type pipe with arched upper lip, rather like Christie style. Some pipes have freins harmoniques – definitely not Wurlitzer
Ø Saxofon - Pipes with wooden resonators – most likely of German manufacture
Ø Vox Humana - Not Wurlitzer – resonators are too short and have regulation “flaps” at the top, rather than the Wurlitzer twist caps and holes.
Some stopped wood bourdon basses might be Wurlitzer.
Percussions seem to be a mixture of Wurlitzer and other manufacture.
The console structure is basically Wurlitzer. In view of the replacement of the pipework as described above, it is quite astonishing that immense efforts were taken to make exact copies for SOME replacement parts in the console, which still has its electro-pneumatic actions. Efforts were made to achieve an exact match for two missing pedal keys, the music desk and the bench! But this restoration work is largely belied by stopkeys that are not Wurlitzer style (no tip abbreviations) , nor even Wurlitzer colours – some tabs are blue. A plain panel replaces the stopkeys formerly on the backrail.
I am unsure whether the organ is yet playing, as my information dates back a few years. Without wishing to be unkind, I would suggest that to describe it as a restored or reconditioned Wurlitzer organ is stretching the facts somewhat.