Potomac Valley Theatre Organ Society, Fairfax, Va.

1925 WurliTzer style F, divided 2/8, Opus 1020

by George R. Johnson

The WurliTzer now owned by the Potomac Valley Theatre Organ Society was shipped from the WurliTzer factory March 21, 1925 to the Rialto theatre in Washington, D.C. The organ was next installed in Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Arlington, Va. The church was located in two different places and the Pentagon now stands on the site of the first property.

In 1970 the organ became the property of Dow and Edith Evelyn who intended to install it in their Springfield, Va., home. During this time, missing Wurlitzer parts were assembled including the missing Tuba 16, traps and tuned percussions, and a new Moller 73 note posthorn 8 without mitering. When it became evident the organ could not be installed without major modifications to the home, the Evelyns decided to DONATE the organ to the Potomac Valley Theatre Organ Society (PVTOS).

The organ was moved by PVTOS chapter members to the then-new Harris Theater at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. It is interesting to know that the instrument is still no more than 25 miles from its first home.

The original electropneumatic relay has been replaced with a Z-Tronic (Bill Zobel vintage), with Peterson Capture. The wind has been removed from the console making it portable, which is very desirable as the console is stored off stage in its private garage. The substitute blower was insufficent and didn't produce enough wind, but the chapter had on hand a derelict Zepher. It was transported to Schantz Organ for rebuilding at about half the cost of a new one, and is powerful enough for about 15 ranks.

The windchests were releathered in 1962. This type of work is done when required and a 20 X 30 regulator still requires new leather. When space for the posthorn is made available in the main chamber, there will be a total of eight regulators, four with tremolo. The chamber space is very tight, requiring the bourdon 16, diaphone 16, and the four tuned percussions to be located on a balcony stage right.

The installation and TLC has been done over a period of 11 years by PVTOS chapter members. The work still isn't completed and the theater is quite active, as it should be, so it is difficult to get access at times. More than 25 members have helped with the work.

The Harris Theater seats 550 and the best place to hear the organ is from the small balcony. The theater is very well equipped and the sound and lighting is by digital control. There are lighting instruments dedicated for PVTOS use and the lighting setup is stored in the memory. PVTOS has used video front projection at times and programs have included silents, sing alongs, and other sources of sound, both persussion and vocal.


The Potomac Valley Theatre Organ Society is dedicated to preserving the theatre pipe organ in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas. PVTOS is a chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society, a national organization formed in 1955 that has more than 6,000 members. National and local members work to preserve organs and their theatres, and to promote theatre organ performances.

PVTOS owns two vintage theatre pipe organs and produces the "Sound of the Silents" concert series at George Mason University's Harris Theater, featuring the 1925 WurliTzer. The series is staffed entirely by volunteer members. PVTOS is now in its fourth season of programs, offering six programs a year with the assistance of George Mason University. PVTOS is a member of the Arts Council of Fairfax County (Va). George R. Johnson is curator. George and his wife are owners of WurliTzer #815.

Future Programs:

Paul Roberts, April 13 Ray Brubacher, May 11 Bob Ralston, June 8 and June 9 Floyd Werle, June 10 (special performance for AGO members)

For ticket information for PVTOS concerts at Harris Theater, George Mason University, call (703) 993-8888.

For more information on the WurliTzer, call George Johnson, Potomac Valley Theatre Organ Society, at (703) 971-4455

Organ Specs

The organ is a WurliTzer style F divided 2/8 Opus 1020.

Relay is Z-Tronic (Bill Zobel vintage). Capture is Peterson, single level. 4 Generals, 10 Solo. Set, 10 Accomp also sets Pedal, General Cancel Door bell push button. 12 toe pistons, 2 piano pedals, solo and main swell pedals. Posthorn addition is provided for.

Name Board

Accomp 2nd Touch 16 diaphone 16 tibia 8 posthorn chime xylophone triangle

Solo 2nd Touch 16/8 posthorn 16/8 tuba 16/8 tibia main trem tuba trem tivia trem vox humana trem


16 tuba, 16 bass, 16 bourdon 8 tuba, 8 open diapason, 8 tibia, 8 cello & celeste, 8 flute bass drum, kettle drum, crash cymbal, cymbal accomp to pedal, solo to pedal


8 tuba, 8 open diapason, 8 tibia, 8 clarinet, 8 violin, 8 violin celeste, 8 flute, 8 vox humana 4 piccolo (tib), 4 violin, 4 violin celeste, 4 flute 2-2/3 twelfth (fl), 2 piccolo (fl) chrysoglott, snare drum, tambourine, castinet, wood block, cymbal 16 accomp to accomp, 8 solo to accomp, 4 accomp to accomp


16 tibia (TC) 8 posthorn, 8 tuba, 8 open diapason, 8 tibia, 8 clarinet, 8 violin & celeste, 8 flute 4 vox humana, 4 octave, 4 piccolo (tib), 4 clarinet, 4 violin, 4 violin celeste, 4 flute, 4 vox humana 2-2/3 twelfth (fl or tib), 2 piccolo (fl or tib), 1-3/5 flute chime, xylophone, glockenspiel, chrysoglott 16 solo to solo, 8 unison, 5 solo to solo

Michele Braithwaite, Media Relations, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
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