Our organ was originally built as a theater organ in the era of silent movies following World War One. Many theaters had an organ to provide the background sound. Unfortunately, the first”talking movies” brought on the quick demise of the theater pipe organ and many were repossessed and offered for sale for other uses. One of these beautiful instruments, made by The United States Pipe Organ Company of Philadelphia, found a home at Union Presbyterian Church. Much of the history of our organ has been lost in time, but we have been able to glean some insight into it. The serial number on the air blower matches records which list it as being originally sold to the Embassy Theater in Elizabeth, NJ. This would correlate with passed-down history that it came from a NJ theater. It is listed as a “Style E” organ, which would be a “6 rank” organ, but somewhere along the line a trumpet was added making it a “7 rank”. A rank is a set of pipes making similar sounds.
During the pastorate of Rev. Thomas Kerr, a committee was established to investigate the purchase of an organ. The congregation approved the purchase in January of 1931, and the organ was dedicated on Palm Sunday of that year, 85 years ago today. The cost was $3600.00, and a generous gift in honor of long time Union members Bordley and Emma Patterson, given by their daughter, Mrs. Hugh Foresman, made the purchase possible. Mr. Foresman had been a professor at The Union Academy and moved to Chicago, IL, where he founded Scott, Foresman and Company, which would become one of the largest and most famous school book publishers in the world. The Union Academy is currently a private residence on Academy Rd, about a half mile west of Union.
On the Friday before the Palm Sunday dedication, a recital was held with the President of the organ company present. In fact, he and his wife even sang in the program. Several members of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra accompanied as well. Additionally, Professor Raymond Wilson of Eastman School of Music from Rochester, NY, also played the organ. He had grown up near Mt. Vernon. Lila Penny Wilde served as Union's organist at this time.
The organ has served us very faithfully over the years, and it is for the most part still very original. In 1998, at a cost of $19,200, the organ console was converted to solid state and is still working well and serviceable today. In 2015, it was decided that the organ pipes and many of the associated controls and air supply mechanisms were in serious need of repair. The church contracted with SDG organ service of Millersville, PA, and their careful and capable work have led to the organ being placed back in fine working condition to hopefully take our ministry of music well into the future.