Tag Archives: Philadelphia

The Wanamaker organ

A National Historic Landmark valued over $57 million, the Grand Organ of Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia has 465 ranks, six manual keyboards, and hundreds of other mechanical controls. Designed by the renowned organ architect George Ashdown Audsley, it was built by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

In 1909 John Wanamaker bought the instrument for his new emporium. Thirteen freight cars were required to ship it, and installation took two years. The Grand Organ was first heard in the seven-story atrium on 22 June 1911; later that year it was prominently featured when President William Howard Taft dedicated the store. During the following 20 years it was continuously enlarged under the direction of William Boone Fleming.

Daily recitals by store employees provided a harmonious environment for shopping, and special performances, such as annual Christmas concerts, provided outreach to the community. Today the store is owned by Macy’s, and the traditions continue.

This according to “The Grand Court organ” by Ralph Blakely (The musical times CXXX/ 1761 [November 1989] pp. 703–707). Below, Virgil Fox discusses and performs on the organ.

More organ-related posts are here.

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