The Walter Williams High School 3/15 Theater Organ
The Williams High School Theatre Organ is a hybrid Instrument that has had quite varied life. The original instrument started in the Strand Theater in Scranton, PA in 1916 as a 2/10 Kimball. The console was straight and it was not heavily unified. The pipework was voiced on 8" of water and consisted of the following ranks.
In the 1920's The organ was moved to The Binghamton Theatre in Binghamton, NY and a Clarinet was added. It remained in the Binghamton Theatre until the 1950's when it was moved to a barn south of Binghamton. It was purchased in 1967 by Chet Rataski of Vestal, NY. The console, marimba action and chest work were heavily water damaged and were not repairable. The items that were salvaged were the pipe work, marimba bars, blower (3hp Kinetic) and the swell shades. The Diapason was huge so it was traded to a local organ technician for 2-Marr & Colton unit chests and an Austin Oboe Horn. Mr. Ed Link of Link Organ fame and a friend donated a 3 manual, single bolster Wurlitzer console (picture at the left), the toy counter and chimes from the Binghamton Elks RJ8 WurliTzer. He also donated several Beeman unit chests and offsets from the Binghamton High Street Methodist Church.
A Wurlitzer regulator and a rank of M&C Kinuras were swapped for some electronic organ parts and additional regulators and offsets were built.. A Deagan Chrysoglott with a missing action was purchased and an action was designed and built. An M&C Xylophone and Glockenspiel were located and purchased. Space was at a premium so a relay had to be designed that could control the organ and take up as little space as possible. An hybrid relay was designed that used diodes instead of shorting bars and pneumatic switches similar to Link actions. The organ now had enough pieces to start construction but it abruptly ended when in 1970, the organ was moved to Raleigh, NC. The organ at that time consisted of:
On arriving in Raleigh the organ was set up in a 2 car garage. It first played in January 1971 as a 3/11 with electronic 16' Bourdon, Diaphone Violone and Ophecleide .. In 1972 it was moved to a new location and was installed in its own building. Between 1972 and 1976, the electronic 16' Bourdon and Diaphone were replaced by a Wurlitzer Bourdon and Diaphone, the Solo chests were replaced with Wurlitzer chests and a Wurlitzer Tibia and Tuba from a Scheme 35 organ found in Goldsboro, NC. An M&C Trumpet was traded for the original Kimball Tuba. In 1978, the electronic 16' Ophecleide was replaced by a WurliTzer Ophecleide purchased from PTOS. A Wurlitzer Orchestral Oboe was also purchased at the same time and installed in the main. An Estey Quintadena was traded for some electronic gear from the 16' pedals. It was revoiced on 8" and installed in the main. In 1979, the last electronic 16', the Violone was replaced by 12 16' Gottrfried Violone pipes from the Williams High School Standaart classical organ. The console stop rail was expanded to its maximum. The couplers, tuned and untuned percusions were put on the back rail with the tremulants and 2nd touch tabs. In 1985, the organ was sold to Dr. Paul Abernethy of Burlington, NC. Dr. Abernethy donated the organ to the Walter Williams High School. The specification for the organ at that time was:
In 1996, the organ became the property of the the Piedmont Theater Organ Society who installed it and maintains it. It resides in two of the four chambers that had originally housed a 4/63 Standaart concert organ. The auditorium seats 1200 and has very fine acoustical properties. There is room for a good deal of expansion but before that can happen, the console needed to be replaced with one large enough to control an instrument of its size. (See photo at the bottom of the "Home" page or click this link.) A double bolster 3 manual console shell was purchased from Arndt with financial help from the Burlington NC Kiwanis club and the Chet Rataski added the two half rails and raised the console top to accommodate them. The console now holds 254 stop tabs. The original Wurlitzer console had a single rail and could not adequately support the 15 ranks that the organ contains The new console will also support the planned addition of 10 more ranks and work is in progress to prepare it for the task of controlling a 23 rank instrument. To help prepare for the expansion, and to allow the console to be stored when not in use. The hybrid relay of the organ has been replaced by a Uniflex 2000 Electronic Relay system. PTOS considers the organ as “A Work of Art in Progress”.
This picture was taken by Riesner. The
consoles were purchased by Arndt when Riesner went out of business. The console
top has a very distinctive shape and is similar to pictures of the George Wright
Console Shell as received from Arndt.
Arndt had removed the light shades which made the top look like those used by
WurliTzer on their earlier consoles.
New half rails were laminated and
matched to the stop rail.The extra half rail requires raising console top by
3-1/2 inches. The half rails increase the stop rail capacity by 18 Stop Tabs (SAMs)
on each side. The Arndt top, temporary front covers, temporary set of manuals
and back rail are in the picture to verify clearances in the console. The Stop
Rail with the new Half Rails and the Back Rail will hold over 250 Stop Keys
View of the back of Stop Rail showing
extrusions used to mount SAMs. The extrusions are screwed to the stop rail every
3"with flat head wood screws. Brass clips that have been drilled and tapped ride
in the extrusion and the SAMs are screwed into the clips with 6-32 machine
screws. This method makes it very easy to adjust the spacing of the SAMs. The
black bracket in the lower left of the picture is made of #10 steel and supports
the stop rails in the front. The center of the stop rail is supported by a brace
that runs across the width of the console. The brace is reinforced by two #10
steel fletch plates securely fastened to the brace. wood front panels screw to
the brackets with machine screws and metal wood inserts similar to those used on
View of the back of the
Back Rail showing the Extrusions mounted on the back rail and the clips riding
in the extrusion. The Back Rail will hold 60 Stop keys (SAMs).
The finished console with a new top.
The manual used were from the original 3 manual WurliTzer console that came with the organ. The Barton Bench came from a console that was purchased from a University in Ohio along with a WurliTzer Relay that was attached to the organ for a time. And the Robert Morton Pedal Board came from the Carolina Theatre (now Stevens Center, School of the Arts) Winston-Salem, North Carolina.