Interest shown in Gloversville church’s pipe organ

At least four parties have expressed interest in saving the 1920s Moller organ in the abandoned Firs
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At least four parties have expressed interest in saving the 1920s Moller organ in the abandoned First Baptist Church.

The church, left by the congregation in 1998, is scheduled for demolition in the fall.

Mayor Tim Hughes said all the inquiries about the organ seemed to be serious. He said the city has contact information on all the individuals, but he said they will have to wait until the city has completed a “historic inventory” in the building.

The inventory will be conducted by Deputy City Historian Judy Marcoux.

The city is still in the process of taking title to the church. Hughes said it may be a month before the inventory can begin. Marcoux said Wednesday she is anxious to begin. Local photographer Elizabeth Gundersen will be recording the church’s attributes and plans to take photographs of sunlight illuminating the stained glass windows, Marcoux said.

City officials have expressed a desire to save the organ, which features nearly 3,000 pipes, installed in two chambers above the altar and through the ceiling. Some pipes are 16-feet long.

Though members of the final congregation believed the organ is the third largest in the state, organ experts have since described it as ordinary and put its size in perspective.

Experts have also questioned whether the organ is worth saving since the church roof has been damaged in places and there is water damage to some of the pipes. There may be some value in salvaging parts, experts said.

The console, which has been spared damage, is the most insignificant part of the organ system, said Stephen Best, an organ expert who serves as an adjunct faculty member at Hamilton College and as minister of music at First Presbyterian Church in Clinton.

Best said Moller organs are very common and while some of the instruments were exceptional, many were mediocre.

A restoration would involve disassembling the entire instrument including all the pipes and reinstalling the system in another building. That project would cost at least $100,000, Best said.

Usually, the only organizations interested in such an organ are other churches, said John Bishop, executive director of the Organ Clearing House in Boston. Bishop said his company identifies available organs and brokers their sale to interested parties. He said the Clearing House has about 40 Moller organs, ranging in size from 800 pipe to 8,500 pipes, in its current inventory.

Best said the First Baptist organ is not exceptionally large. The largest in the world, the Midmer-Losh Organ at the Atlantic City Convention Hall, has 33,114 pipes and two consoles.

The second largest is the Wanamaker organ at Macy’s in Philadelphia. It has 28,140 pipes. Third on the list is the Friedell & Ferguson organ in the chapel at West Point. It has 20,142 pipes.

Bishop said the Hagerstown, Md., M.P. Moller Pipe Organ Co., founded in 1875 and closed in 1992, made more organs than any other manufacturer. In its history it produced about 13,500 organs, he said, comparing that statistic to the 8,700 organs made by all six of Boston’s organ companies over 200 years.

Bishop said the rain damage on the First Baptist organ may constitute its death knell, but he said he would still be interested in studying any detailed photographs of its various parts.

If interest remains in the organ, Hughes said, it will probably be put up for bids. He said the city has already been offered $50,000 for just the moldings and doors in the church.

Categories: Schenectady County

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