Securing National Historic Landmark status for the Round Lake Organ, also known as the Davis-Ferris Organ, wasn't easy according to village resident Lydia Hoffman.
"It was not a slam dunk by any means," said Hoffman, who traveled to Washington, D.C. last year along with music historian Steven Mallory to argue the organ's case in front of officials from the Department of the Interior. "It's very unusual for an object like an organ to be given that status. It's usually a building, a battlefield, a graveyard or some landscape. We had to show that it was a significant resource for understanding our history."
The Department of Interior agreed with Hoffman and Mallory, and on Jan. 19, announced that the organ would be designated as a National Historic Landmark. The village of Round Lake, which wasn't incorporated until 1969 but formed as a community in 1867, was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
A celebration of the organ, which is housed in the historic Auditorium in Round Lake, will be held Saturday at 1 p.m.
"We are very proud of our organ, and we hope people don't begin to take it for granted," said Hoffman. "We still use it a lot from spring into the fall. It's a remarkable piece of art and history, right in the middle of the village."
The 1900-pipe tracker organ includes pipes large enough for a small child to crawl through. It was built in 1847 and is the largest unaltered of its kind in the U.S. Thin ribbon-like wooden trackers connect the parts, while an electric blower provides the wind power to make sound.
.The organ was originally made for the Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City, but in 1888 was relocated to the Round Lake Auditorium by Giles Beach, a Gloversville organ builder. The instrument has had a few minor mechanical alterations, but nearly all of the sounding portions of the instrument are intact, including the wind system, chests and pipework. It is considered to be the oldest and largest three-manual organ in existence.
While it may have been built for Episcopals, the organ came to Round Lake thanks to the Methodists and their annual summer camp-meeting, which had started back in the 1860s.
A plaque documenting the organ's status will be provided by the National Park Service and will be placed just outside the Auditorium in a special structure made by Colin Roy, a local blacksmith who was raised in Round Lake. The structure is a 12-foot high forged tower reflecting the outline of the Auditorium's bell tower and will be unveiled Saturday.
Saturday's event will include a full day of free activities beginning with the unveiling of Roy's work. Presentations on the organ and demonstrations of how to use the instrument will be held throughout the day.