Robert-Morton | "Wonder" | 1930 | 4/23 | 5 Tuned Percussion | 12 Traps | 1,799 Pipes
ABOUT THE ORGAN
In the late 1920s, the Loew’s chain of movie theatres designed five “Wonder” theatres to be built, initially, in all five boroughs of New York City (Staten Island’s was eventually built in Jersey City). These theatres were some of the grandest movie palaces ever built and would stand as the flagship theatres for the company. To match the extravagance of the Wonder theatres, the Loew’s firm commissioned the Robert-Morton Organ Company of Van Nuys, California, the second largest theatre organ builder in the world, to build five identical, large organs to fill the massive spaces. These organs would be Robert-Morton’s magnum opus and use some of the highest pressures and largest scales the company ever produced. They would also be some of the last organs the firm produced.
The console, where the organist plays, was designed to be “over the top” and very ornate. The organ’s large pipework and many percussions are installed in two large chambers (rooms) on either side of the stage behind large statues. Also inside of these chambers are over 2,000 valves, tens of thousands of feet of wire, and twelve sound effects. The organ console also has its own lift from the orchestra pit which would rise up, extravagantly, at the beginning and end of each film. The organ in the United Palace was the youngest of the five Wonders; it is the only remaining in its original location with all of its original parts, unaltered. From the over 12,000 theatre organs manufactured throughout the world, there are only around 20 known to be in their original theatres. This organ, along with the Brooklyn Paramount and Radio city, are in that very short list. Since October 2016, NYTOS has signed on to fully restore this historical instrument to fully playable condition once again.
ABOUT THE THEATRE
The United Church was founded by the Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II (1935-2009), better known as "Reverend Ike." The church is also known as "The Palace Cathedral" and "Rev. Ike's Prayer Tower." It occupies the former Loew's 175th Street Theatre at 175th Street and Broadway in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. In recent years the building has also been used as a concert venue and is known as the United Palace when booked for such events.
The fifth and last of the Loew’s “Wonder Theatres” to be built in New York, Loew’s 175th Street Theatre was designed by Thomas Lamb in a mixture of styles. Lamb embellished the walls of the 3,661-seat auditorium with Indo-Chinese decoration and created a palatial staircase in the foyer that leads to a grandiose, aurora borealis headed by a goddess decoration. Its facade was decorated in a blocky, stylized version of the Mayan style. Loew's 175th Street opened in February 1930, and closed in March 1969. For more information on the theatre and its many exciting events, please visit The United Palace of Cultural Arts Website! (NYC Organ Project)