Belle Wilber Thorne Hall
Skinner Organ Co., op. 819A (1930/38)
- 1930. Skinner Organ Company’s op. 819 was installed in San Francisco’s Temple Methodist Episcopal Church. Unusually, the church occupied the lower floors of the William Taylor Hotel, a 28-floor building at 100 McAllister Street. (The building is still standing and is now apartments for UC Hastings College of Law.)
- 1937. Due to low revenue from the hotel and growing interest payments, the Temple Methodist congregation was forced to sell the building. The organ was removed and placed in storage.
- 1938. After learning of its availability, Occidental College acquired op.819 using funds provided by Euclid and Elizabeth Clapp McBride (Oxy class of 1919). The college paid $15,000 for the organ; $1535 for adaptations necessary to fit the organ in the new space; and $3000 transportation and installation. With additional costs for architectural consultation and preparation of the chambers, the total cost of the organ was $21,973. Aeolian-Skinner added a Gamba Celeste to the Solo division, resulting in the organ’s new designation as op. 819-A. The organ was installed in the summer of 1938 and the final payment was made to Aeolian-Skinner Dec. 20 of that year.
- 1939. The first recital is given by Carl Weinrich (Westminster Choir School) on February 8, 1939.
1960. Clarence Mader, then the College Organist, wrote the president of the college (Arthur G. Coons) requesting funds to rebuild or replace the console, as well as an additional $30,000 to undertake a significant tonal revision of the instrument “to bring it in inline with the greatly improved standards of the present day.” The console project was approved, while the neo-baroque tonal revisions were (thankfully) not funded.
- 1961. The original Skinner console is replaced with a new console by the Schantz Organ Company at a cost of $14,725. While Aeolian-Skinner had asked for $15,000 to rebuild the original console and had a 2-year backlog before they could begin work, Schantz promised a new console for the same price to be delivered within 10-12 months of ordering.
- 1980s. After five decades of service in two locations, op. 819 was in need of significant repair. The last major performance on the instrument occurred on January 12, 1987 with a recital by Yale University organist Thomas Murray (Occidental Class of 1965).
- ca. 1988. A major renovation of the interior of Thorne Hall results in the removal of the console to make way for a stage wheelchair lift in the same location, silencing the organ. Plans for rebuilding the organ were deferred and eventually dropped completely due to budgetary concerns.
- 2007. After sitting dormant for almost two decades, the organ is listed for sale by the college.
- 2008. The organ was purchased by St. Anthony Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A subsequent change in leadership at the church, along with financial pressures for the recession, resulted in the organ project being delayed indefinitely and eventually cancelled. The organ remained unused in Thorne Hall for another ten years.
- 2017. The organ was sold once again, with Foley-Baker, Inc. engaged for removal, restoration, and eventually reinstallation.
2018. On May 30, 2018, a crew from Foley-Baker, Inc. began the removal of the organ from Thorne Hall in preparation for restoration in their Connecticut workshop. The organ will eventually be installed in a new home in the Houston area.
2. Stop List
No commercial recordings of this instrument are known at this time.
6. Notable Performances
The list of performances below is primarily collected from newspaper reviews and announcements. If you have knowledge of other performances, please feel free to contact the author of this page.
- February 8, 1939 – Carl Weinrich (Westminster Choir School) in recital
- November 3, 1940 – Walter Hartley (Occidental faculty organist) in recital
- April 29, 1941 – Walter Hartley (Occidental faculty organist), Bach St. Matthew Passion
- July 7, 1941 – Alexander McCurdy (Curtis Institute) in recital
- July 13, 1941 – Clarence Snyder (McCurdy’s student at Curtis) in recital
- May 7, 1945 – Walter Hartley (Occidental faculty organist) in a recital of new works
- April 15, 1946 – Alexander McCurdy (Westminster Choir College)
- November 24, 1947 – Flor Peeters
- April 29, 1949 – David Craighead (Occidental faculty organist) in recital
- April 17, 1951 – Claire Coci in recital
- February 11, 1952 – George Markey in recital
- April 18, 1952 – Virgil Fox in recital
- November 18, 1952 – Robert Noehren (University of Michigan) in recital
- February 13, 1953 – E. Power Biggs in recital on both Skinner and portable Rieger organ
- March 2, 1953 – Jeanne Demessieux (Conservatoire royal de Liège) in recital
- November 23, 1953 – David Craighead (Occidental faculty organist) in recital
- February 23, 1954 – Jean Langlais (St. Clotilde) in recital
- April 30, 1954 – Virgil Fox in recital
- September 28, 1954 – David Craighead (Occidental faculty organist) in recital
- November 23, 1954 – E. Power Biggs in recital
- February 22, 1955 – Jeanne Demessieux (Conservatoire royal de Liège) in recital
- February 16, 1959 – Rober Noehren (University of Michigan) in recital
- September 25, 1961 – Andre Marchal (Saint-Eustache) in recital; inauguration of new console
- May 22, 1966 – Clarence Mader (Occidental faculty organist) with Glee Club, Bach B-minor mass
- May 22, 1985 – James Walker (Occidental faculty organist) in recital
- January 8, 1986 – James Walker (Occidental faculty organist) in recital
- January 12, 1987 – Thomas Murray (Yale University; Oxy ’65) in recital