THE ORGAN - Fact and Speculation

A large and unusual organ was built in 1861 by William F. Mohr and installed in the St. Mary's gallery as a two-manual organ with a detached, reversed console. Thus, the organist sat with the organ behind him and peered down the nave of the church toward the chancel. The appearance of a mounted five-rank Cornet among the Great stops is rare, perhaps unique, in American organs of the period. Circa 1896, after Mohr's death, Garret House of Buffalo, who was Mohr's last employer, added a third manual division, made a few a modest tonal changes, and rebuilt the wind system. His work included moving the console further from the main case of the organ, and rearranging it so that the organist would face the case, rather than the chancel. This change necessitated reversing the order of the pipes, for the relationship of the keyboard to the action and pipes had been inverted by turning the console. Whether this was accomplished by constructing all-new chests in 1896, or simply by turning the existing chests 180 degrees, is uncertain. House increased the manual compass from 56 to 61 notes, which would seem to imply that he built new chests for the existing divisions. Examination of the three chests in the organ was not entirely conclusive, for those serving the two older divisions appeared to be of somewhat different construction than the choir chest. Yet, there was no immediate evidence that channels, pallets, and action for five additional notes had been added.

Several historians speculate that all of the chests date from the House rebuild, for the old chests would have been used, even though they were of 56-note compass, if they had been serviceable. This further led to speculation that the organ originally may have had chests of a design differing from typical pallet-and-slider chests, such as the "cone-valve" or "pipe-valve" tracker chests common in German organs of the time. Such chests may have been preferred by Mohr for the same reasons that he elected to provide the instrument with a wind system of late European design, atypical in American organs.

In 1951, Jacob Gerger of Philadelphia replaced the tracker action with electropneumatic pulldown actions and a new console, and moved pipes around. The action had failed by the early 1970s, and the Great action was patched by David Snyder. The pneumatic leather of the supply-house actions was completely rotted in the Swell when the organ was examined before removal.

William Mohr's surviving instrument was rescued from sure extinction on June 30, 1982, when Organ Historical Society member and organ builder Rubin Frels of Victoria, Texas, attended an auction at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Buffalo and successfully bid against another party who had intended to acquire the instrument solely for its facade, which he said he had hoped to incorporate into the serving bar of a nightclub. Mr. Frels paid $10,000 to save the instrument from that fate, and then bore the same expense to hire a crew of six (and, at times, up to a dozen), to disassemble and pack the instrument between March 16 and 24,1982, and to transport it to Victoria in May. Its dimensions had been 34 feet tall, 21 feet wide, and 17 feet deep. The organ is currently in storage in Round Top Texas (between Austin and Houston off Rte 290). Round top is the location of the International Festival-Institute, a summer festival of concerts ranging from chamber music to major symphonic works. There are plans to build a special auditorium-concert hall to house the organ.

With the pews removed, the floor of St. Mary's
became filled with the parts of the Mohr organ as it was dismantled.

 Members of the crew who removed the organ included Amory Atkins, Ted Blankenship, Whitney Fletcher, Rubin Frels, Sebastian Houseman, Dana Hull, Alan Laufman, Shawn McKenna, Bill Van Pelt and volunteers David Snyder and Dr. Lydia Fish. Ted Blankenship recorded many details of the organ, including scales for many ranks, reported here:

 1861 William F. Mohr, Buffalo ca. 1896
Garret House, Buffalo, enlargement
1951 Jacob Gerger, Philadelphia, electrification
compiled by Ted Blankenship and David Snyder,
stop nomenclature from Gerger console

GREAT 61 notes

16' Principal om Mohr

8' Principal om Mohr

8' Gedeekt sw basses from Mohr 8'Gt. St. Diap., trebles from House 16' Sw. Bourdon

8' Wald Flute ow from TC, sw basses, House

8' Viola da Gamba om., 12 Violin Diapason basses by Mohr, trebles by Gerger or House

4' Principal om Mohr

4' Gemshorn om Mohr

2 ' Na2iard om. Mohr

2' Geigen Octave om Mohr

III-V Cornet Mohr, mounted from tc, sm & om, bass from Mohr

Sw. Mixture moved by House

HI-IV Mixture C'-B14 om Mohr, C`-up spm replacements

8' Trumpet mr, 12 basses by Mohr, rest 1896? replacements


CHOIR 61 notes, entire division by House

8' Gelgen Principal om

8' Viola d'Amour om

8' Dulciana om

S' Melodia ow from tc

4' Fugara om

4' Flute d'Amour om, wide scale

2' Piccolo om

8' Clarinet mr, faggotto basses





SWELL 61 notes

16' Lieblich Gedeekt 29 sw from House Sw. 16' Bourdon, rest

sm, from Mohr 8' Gt. St. Diap., Gerger electric unit chest

8' Principal om Mohr

8' Salicional om Gerger, on 16' slider

8' Vox Celeste om House Salicional 8' Stopped Diapason from 16' unit

8' Rohr Flute m chimney flute, Mohr

8' Aeoline om Mohr, old "Clarabella," 12 sw basses

4' Octave om. Mohr

4' Flute Harmonic om House

4' Gedeckt from 16' unit

2 ' Nazard from 16' unit

2' Flautino tapered om Mohr

III Dolce Cornet om House

8' Oboe House

8' Cornopean mr, probably Gerger, on added slider

PEDAL 32-note clavier, 30-note chests extended by House from original 25-note chests by Mohr

32' Resultant from dbI open

16' Double Open Diapason ow Gerger (M611er pipes on unit chest)

10' Bourdon ow Mohr, originally in Great, altered, replaces Mohr 8' ow

16' Dulciana ow Mohr

16' Lieblich Gedeckt, swell unit

8' Gedeckt swell unit

8' Open Flute from 16' pedal unit

4' Flute Gedeckt, swell unit

2' Piccolo swell unit

16' Trombone ow reed Mohr

COUPLERS Gerger console

Sw. to Gt. 16, 8, 4

Ch. to Gt. 16, 8, 4

Sw to Ch. 16, 8, 4

Gt. 16, 4

Sw. 16, 4

Ch. 16,4

Gt. to Ped. 8, Rev

Sw. to Ped. 8, 4

Ch. to Ped. 8

5 pistons ea. manual

5 General pistons

Full Organ

Technical information extracted from material written by Bill Van Pelt and David Snyder.

Photographs c. Bill Van Pelt and c. Lydia Fish/Niagara Frontier Folklore Archives

close up of case

case detail

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