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The Wanamaker Organ

The Wanamaker Organ is located in Macy’s (formerly Wanamaker’s) Department Store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the center of the store, there is a spacious seven story court. The organ sits where is can be seen from most levels. It is played twice a day, Monday through Saturday, and more frequently during the Christmas season. There is a restaurant in the store on the opposite side of the court from the organ allowing a view of the organ as it is being played, a lovely place to have lunch or coffee.

The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ is the largest operational pipe organ in the world. It has 28,482 pipes in 461 ranks. The organ console consists of six manuals. Its string division also the largest single organ chamber in the world has eighty-eight ranks of string pipes. Originally built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, the Wanamaker Organ was designed to imitate a full-size orchestra. In addition to its console, the organ was originally equipped with an automatic player that used punched rolls of paper.

The organ was built at a cost of $105,000, $40,000 over budget. The Fair began in late April 1904 before the organ was fully installed in its temporary home, Festival Hall. It still was not completely finished in September of that year, when Alexandre Guilmant, one of the most famous organists of that time, presented 40 very well attended recitals on the organ.

After the fair ended, the organ was intended to be permanently installed by the Kansas City Convention Hall. The original console had “K C" on its music rack. This plan failed, bankrupting the L. A. Art Organ Company. There was a plan to exhibit the organ at Coney Island in New York City, but nothing came of it. The organ was in storage in a warehouse in St. Louis until 1909, when it was bought by John Wanamaker for his new department store at 13th and Market Streets in Center City, Philadelphia. It took thirteen freight cars to move it to its new home and two years to install it. The story goes that it was first played in Philadelphia on June 6, 1911 at the moment when King George V was crowned. It was also featured later that year when U.S. President William Howard Taft dedicated the Wanamaker Department Store.

The Wanamaker Organ is the largest operational pipe organ in the world. The largest organ in the world is the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but this organ is barely functional.

Listen to the "William Tell Overture" being played by Nathan Laube on the Wanamaker organ. Thank you, Bulent, for sharing this link in your critique for my picture.

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Additional Photos by Betty Jones (BWJ) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 473 W: 0 N: 919] (3094)
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