Last year, the Music House Museum (MHM) successfully rose over $80,000 for the restoration of the Amaryllis (Mortier) dance organ replacing its aging leather valves and sealing cracks in its wind chests. This was accomplished in June of last year when Johnny Verbeek and his son came from Belgium and brought it back as close as possible to its original 1924 condition.
As the Museum enters its 32nd year of providing education and entertainment to its guests, it is time to address the same issues with its “Columbia” fair/band organ. This instrument is the second largest instrument in our collection and celebrated incidentally its 100th anniversary last year.
The Columbia was built by the Bruder family of organ builders from the Black Forest region of Bavaria specifically for use with merry-go-rounds and fair midways around 1913. Imported by Berni Organ Company of New Year City, a broker of Band Organs from European builders, the Columbia found its home on a pier in Wildwood New Jersey where it provided years of entertainment from a roof top pavilion. Rumor is that it could be heard for one quarter mile above the din of the crowds and machinery. This amusement park was subsequently destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2013.
The organ was removed in the 1970s suffering years of weather and neglect. Going through several owners and storage location it was purchased by the MHM, together with a collection of its original books, in 1981 for $18,000 and it underwent extensive rebuilding and restoration.
The “Columbia” is a “Serenadum” model fair organ measuring 11 feet long, 9 feet and three inches high and 3 feet and 3 inches deep. It has two detachable wings. Its façade is decorated with gold and silver leaf and hand painted panels and is considered the best example of this rare style and size of fair organ. It plays using a 52 note keyless system using perforated cardboard books and has 186 pipes representing 20 musicians.
The Museum’s Board of Directors authorized a fund raising campaign to restore the Bruder and so we begin again.
The following work has been identified as needed:
- Rebuilding of all primary and secondary valves controlling air entering the pipes and percussion.
- Replacement of organ pipes that have fallen out of the display.
- Move the motor driving the bellows to a historically accurate location in the instrument
- Purchase of new books (old books are deteoriated beyond use) to supplement the few newer books that can be still played.
- Lubrication and general maintenance of all moving parts
- General cleaning of the façade (by Museum staff and volunteers)
After entertaining several bids, the Board chose to proceed with a restorer in Ohio. The project will require that the organ be transported to Bloomdale, OH. The total cost of the project is $15,450 which includes labor and parts, transport costs and new book purchases.
The project is being funded solely by donations. Any assistance that you can provide is greatly appreciated. Donations may be sent to the MHM or made on-line at www.musichouse.org and earmarked “Bruder”. For more information call 231 938-9300.