Belle Wilber Thorne Hall
Skinner Organ Co., op. 819A (1930/38)

1. Timeline
2. Stop List
3. Photographs
4. Recordings
5. Documents

6. Notable Performances

1. Timeline

  • January 15, 1930. The William Taylor Hotel opens at 100 McAllister Street in San Franscisco. With 28 floors, it was the tallest hotel on the Pacific coast at the time. The building was initially designed by James R. Miller and Timothy L. Pflueger, with Lewis. P. Hobart completing the design prior to construction.
  • April 20, 1930. The Temple Methodist Church held its first service on Easter Sunday in a 1800 seat sanctuary located on the ground floor of the building. The church, which had initiated the construction of the building, hoped to use the profits from the hotel to fund its missions and charitable work. 
  • August 31, 1930. Skinner Organ Co. op. 819 was dedicated in a recital performed by Wallace Sabin. The church’s regular organist, Harriet Beecher Fish, played for a service later the same day.
  • 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.
  • Historical photo of Thorne Hall interior with organ console by the stage on the audience right. Photo by Virginia Moss Brown, from the Occidental College Library Digital Archives

    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

op.819 stop list

3. Photographs

The organ was located in two chambers above the foyer, while the console was adjacent to the stage.

Diagram of the Thorne Hall organ chambers with location of each division.

An employee of Rosales Organ Builders conducts a pipe survey in July 2016. Pipes on the Great chest can be seen, with the basses of the 8′ Harmonic Flute on the right.  (Photo: E. Johnson)

First and Second Diapason pipes in the façade as seen from the chamber, photographed in 2016. (Photo: E. Johnson)

Pedal mixture in foreground, with façade pipes visible to the left and Great chest in middle background, photographed in 2016. (Photo: E. Johnson)

Pedal Mixture, photographed in 2016. (Photo: E. Johnson)

Pedal 16′ Bourdon / 8′ Gedeckt / 4′ flute (56 pipes), photographed in 2016. (Photo: E. Johnson)

Pedal 16′ Major Bass (32 pipes), photographed in 2016. (Photo: E. Johnson)

Pedal reed pipes: 16′ Trombone on left and 32′ Contra Fagotto on right, photographed in 2016. (Photo: E. Johnson)

Walter Hartley instructs a student at the console, ca. 1947. Screen grab from archival footage.

James Walker, College Organist from 1981 to 2004, at op. 819A’s 1961 Schantz console following a recital, mostly likely on  May 22, 1985. (Photo courtesy of Tom Martinez.)

4. Recordings

No commercial recordings of this instrument are known at this time.

5. Documents

Coming soon.

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. 

At Temple Methodist Church in San Francisco

  • August 31, 1930 – Dedication performance by Wallace Sabin
  • September 4, 1930 – Recital by Warren D. Allen
  • November 27, 1930 – Recital by Fernando Germani
  • February 27, 1931 – Reginald White
  • January, 1934 – Recital by Carl Weinrich, including works by Dupré, Honegger, Bach, Scheidt, and Karg-Elert. 
  • March 2, 1934 – Recital by Raymond White, including the west coast premier of “Ricercare (quasi fantasia) e fuga” composed by Domenico Brescia and dedicated to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge
  • July 1934 – Raymond White, a faculty member at San Francisco State Teachers College, delivered a series of 3 lectures-recitals and a culminating recital as a part of a summer session course. 
  • December 3, 1935 – Recital by Winifred Jolly Bengson
  • March 8, 1936 – W. Richard Weismuller, works by Bach, Massenet, Debussy, and others
  • June 23, 1936 – Recital by Harold Mueller as part of the Northern California AGO’s 25th anniversary conference
  • October 9, 1936 – Clarence Reynolds (Denver City Organist)

At Occidental College

  • 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