Wurlitzer  |  1931  |  2/11  |  5 Tuned Percussion  |  14 Traps  |  815 Pipes
The Console
The Theatre.
A view of the organist's box.
Some of the console buttons.
The digital relay in the console.
The toys in the chamber.
Looking down from the loft.
Chamber relay.
Tiny pipes!
Hammers on the glockenspiel.
Tuned sleigh bells.
Cymbal roll and ride cymbal.
Metal diaphone on the back wall.
8' Kinura
The blower.
Middle octave Tibia pipes.
Photo Nov 28, 9 45 22 AM

The Lafayette Theatre "Ben Hall" Wurlitzer

RESOURCES & LAYOUT
ABOUT THE ORGAN

The Lafayette Theatre’s Mighty Wurlitzer is a Style 150, 2-manual 11 rank theatre pipe organ owned and maintained by the New York Theatre Organ Society.  Opus 2095 was the last Style 150 (originally a 2-manual 5 rank organ) built by Wurlitzer, and was shipped from the Wurlitzer factory on January 31, 1931 to the Lawler Theatre in Greenfield, MA.  Like so many small town movie theatres in the 50’s and 60’s, the Lawler was closed for demolition, and the organ was removed and installed in the Rainbow Roller Rink in South Deerfield, MA, where it was rarely used. 

 

In 1968, noted theatre historian, author and film critic, Ben Hall, bought the organ and installed it in his Greenwich Village duplex in New York City.  The entire 2-manual 5 rank organ including pipes, chests, percussions, console, and blower, was carried up two flights of stairs to the apartment. Tragically, Ben died in 1971, and once again the organ was “orphaned.”  When the estate of Ben Hall donated the organ to the American Theatre Organ Society, ATOS packed up the instrument and shipped it to California where it was to be installed in the estate of the late Harold Lloyd, which was to become a museum to the silent film. However, plans for the museum fell through, and the organ was shipped back to New York City where NYTOS members installed it in the Carnegie Hall Cinema, a small movie theatre located in the basement of Carnegie Hall. Opus 2095 played in the Carnegie Hall Cinema for over ten years until it had to be removed in 1986 when the entire Carnegie Hall building underwent a major restoration. A crew of NYTOS members removed the organ and placed it in storage, and Opus 2095 was again homeless.

 

In 1990, NYTOS chairman Dave Kopp, approached Lafayette Theatre owner Al Venturini, about the possibility of installing the organ in the theatre in Suffern. Al was enthused about the idea, and everyone agreed that the Lafayette was an ideal place for the organ. Work was begun in November 1990, and after countless hours of labor by the volunteer crew and nearly $15,000 of donated funds, the organ which was enlarged to 11 ranks, was reborn and played again for the first time in its new home in December 1992. Since then, in the grand tradition of the American Theatre Organ, the Mighty Wurlitzer has been delighting audiences at the Lafayette Theatre every weekend before the feature films and for other special events in the historic theatre.   

10" | ​85
10" | 73
10" | 61
10" | 73
10" | 61
10" | 61
10" | 61
10" | 73
10" | 61
10" | 97
6" | 61
88 Notes - Digital
25 Notes
37 Notes
37 Notes
25 Notes
49 Notes

16 Diaphonic Diapason

8 Harmonic Tuba

8 Post Horn
8 Tibia Clausa
8 Clarinet
8 Kinura
8 Orchestral Oboe
8 Viol d'orchestre
8 Viol Celeste (TC)
16 Flute
8 Vox Humana
Piano
Cathedral Chimes
Xylophone
Glockenspiel
Sleigh Bells
Chrysoglott

pressure | pipe count

ranks

ABOUT THE THEATRE

In the early 1920’s the Suffern Amusement Company engaged the services of noted theatre architect Eugene De Rosa to design a theatre to be built on Lafayette Avenue in Suffern, NY.  Mr. De Rosa and company designed a theatre primarily influenced by French and Italian Renaissance styles, that included a crystal chandelier hanging from the center dome of the auditorium.  Suffern Amusement also engaged the services of the M. P. Moller Organ Company of Hagerstown, MD, to build an organ for the new theatre.  The Lafayette opened its doors in 1924 with the showing of the silent film classic, “Scaramouche”, and flourished through the rest of the1920’s with live vaudeville shows and film presentations.  A renovation to the theatre in 1927 added the distinctive opera boxes along the side walls.  Shortly thereafter the projection equipment was updated to play the new “talking pictures.”  During the mid-1930’s, an air cooling system was installed in the organ chamber space which required the removal of the original Moller pipe organ. 

 

After World War II, movie-going habits changed, and to keep pace with audience expectations, so too did the Lafayette. In 1953 the theatre installed equipment to handle 3-D films, and became the first theatre in Rockland County to show movies in wide-screen Cinema Scope with stereophonic sound.  However, later in the 1950’s and through the 1960’s television took hold as the popular entertainment medium of the day and the movie theatre business waned.  Fortunately, the Lafayette was spared both the wrecking ball and the multiplexing boom that destroyed or broke up so many of the movie palaces. 

 

Over the years the Lafayette has had many owners, and in the late 1980’s it was purchased by Al Venturini, who owned several theatres in the area.  At the same time, Good Samaritan Hospital was looking for a place to present its StarFest fund-raising shows, and an arrangement was made between the hospital and the theatre owner that would permit the hospital to use the theatre without cost, and in return the hospital made major renovations to the theatre including refurbishing the stage, and installing new carpeting and lighting.  In 1990 the New York Theatre Organ Society arranged with Mr. Venturini to install a theatre pipe organ known at the Ben Hall Memorial Mighty Wurlitzer into the long-empty organ chamber.  However, by 2001 the theatre was again falling on hard times, and Mr. Venturini closed it. 

 

Fortunately, Mr. Robert Benmosche, a resident of Suffern and the CEO of MetLife Insurance, saw the potential of the theatre and its importance to downtown Suffern, and purchased the property, making repairs to the roof and the exterior of the theatre to prevent further damage to the building.  In 2002 he leased the 1,000 seat theatre to the Galaxy Theatre Corporation under the leadership of Nelson Page.  Page and the Benmosche’s made extensive renovations to the interior of the theatre including restoring the ornate ceiling, and installing a new chandelier to replace the one removed during the 1930’s.  Page also arranged to have new projection and sound systems installed.  Nelson Page continued to operate the theatre until August 2013, when the operation of the theatre was turned over to JACA Entertainment Corporation, a company headed by Robert Benmosche’s son Ari.  Sadly, Robert Benmosche passed away in 2015.  But, after more than 90 years, thanks to Mr. Benmosche, the Lafayette Theatre continues to stand and operate as a major landmark and treasure in downtown Suffern.  In 2005 the USA Today newspaper honored the Lafayette by naming it “one of 10 Great Places in the USA to revel in Cinematic Grandeur.”

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© 2020 New York Theatre Organ Society

Looking down from the loft.