Wurlitzer  |  Style EX  |  1928  |  2/10  |  4 Tuned Percussion  |  9 Traps  |  815 Pipes

The Bardavon Opera House

From the time of its installation in 1928, the Wurlitzer pipe organ played an essential role in the Bardavon’s offerings, whether to accompany early silent films or enhance its musical palette. However, in the 1960’s, it was removed and taken to a private home in Scarsdale, NY. A decade later, the organ was trucked back once more to Poughkeepsie, and unceremoniously placed in storage to await an uncertain future.

In 1983, New York Theatre Organ Society (NYTOS) uncovered this significant piece of the Bardavon’s history, bought it, and in 1985 forged an agreement with the Bardavon for permanent re-installation under NYTOS’ ownership. The community rallied once again and fundraising for the restoration process began. NYTOS spent tens of thousands of dollars, and an almost equal number of volunteer work hours, restoring this magnificent instrument. In September 1990, the Bardavon’s “Golden Voice“ was brought home. Her return placed the Bardavon on par with Radio City Music Hall as one of the few remaining New York theaters to still have its original pipe organ in place.

Times change, technology changes. Organists began asking for more features and thus a new specification was created. Subsequent additional funding and volunteer labor brought the organ up to its current condition. In the first renovation the original relay or “control system” was replaced with a more reliable, useful, and expandable electronic system. Thus, the organ’s seven sets (ranks) of pipes, were increased to 10, and many more features and sound effects were added.

However, all sounds – with two small exceptions - are still acoustically and mechanically air pressure-operated, driven by a 5-horsepower blower located in the theater’s upper reaches. With it’s musical core intact, the Mighty Wurlitzer and its place in history live on!

© 2019 New York Theatre Organ Society