Lewis and Hitchcock, Inc. - Pipe Organ Builders Since 1915
Rebuilt Organs

Patrick Allen Aeolian Skinner Organ Installation Story

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On Sunday, August 5, 2007, I met Tony Drummond, Walker Terrent and Steve Kimble at the shop. The driver from Absolute Moving, Mordechi, came on time with his big truck, and we loaded it in two hours. Then I drove to Secaucus, New Jersey and spent the night in the Extended Stay Motel, my home for the week.

On Monday, August 6, I took the bus to the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd St., where I took the C Subway to the 14th St. Station and took the L to the Union Square Station. Then I walked three blocks south to 100 4th Ave, Patrick Allen’s Apartment.

Patrick showed me how the school building area between the elevator and his apartment staircase was under construction. We had been promised that a clear path would be provided for us as needed. Then we toured his apartment. He had moved all the furniture from the living room into the dining room and covered the floors with paper.

The banister had been removed from the staircase; Patrick liked that look so much he is thinking of putting a handrail on the wall instead of putting it back. This will make taking furniture up and down the stairs easier in the future.

The upstairs room at the top of the stairs was empty. The baseboards had been removed to give us all the width possible, and the window to the street had been covered over. The chase had been broken open and a 3” hole cut for our windline and cable to the console. Patrick had purchased four lights for us to mount once parts were in place.

At noon Mordechi called to say he was at 100 4th Street; where were we? We said we were at 100 4th Avenue and gave him the directions and soon he pulled up out front. Then the movers arrived. They were all Lithuanian immigrants and our Israeli truck driver spoke a little of their language, so they were instantly friends.

Mordechi stayed at the truck and directed the movers, telling them to be cautious of the fragile parts. Patrick supervised the elevator and stairs, and I supervised placement. When we got ready to take the console up the elevator, the floor had not only been cleared to the elevator, it had been swept. We were able to get the console in the elevator without any problem. The movers had to move some furniture in the preschool room, but we were within 10 feet of Patrick’s apartment when we hit the obstacle. The three steel doors would not let the console pass in any fashion, and we lost ivories trying different ideas, so the console stayed in the preschool room for a while.

It had been misty rainy in the morning, and cool, but as the truck arrived the sun came out, and it became very hot and muggy. We drank lots of water, and were all covered in sweat at the end of the afternoon.

Patrick paid the movers and gave each man a tip, and they were very happy. I tipped out truck driver and he set out for Beltsville, having left at 5 AM and probably expected to arrive back about 10 PM, a very long day for him.

In the chamber we had placed the rectifier, blower, bearers and the main chest on sawhorses. We had run out of space for pipes and had put a few on Patrick’s bed. These we had to put on top of the windchest, as Patrick wanted to sleep on his bed.

One view of the living room full of pipes and parts.

Another view of the living room.

On Tuesday, August 7, Richard Alford came up on the train and joined me. We uncovered the main chest and discovered it was end for end, so we had to flip it. Then we attached the primary action on each side. That made it so heavy the sawhorses were collapsing, so we quickly put the bearers under it. Then we put the Oboe offset chest in place and the Pedal Bourdon chest, to see if we had measured correctly and the door would still open.

Richard was proud of his measuring; the door just cleared the upright. Once we had these in place, we could locate the other chests around the perimeter, and finalize the location of the main chest.

One of the problems we found in dealing with a very old building was that the floors were not level, and the walls were not straight. We purchased two packages of shims, and used them up this day, and had to purchase more.

After we also shimmed the skyracks against the wall to have them stand straight, we began to install the back row of Bourdons, as once we had more equipment in, there would be no way to get them into the room.

By this time we had two of the four light fixtures attached to the walls.

Then we began to install the other offset windchests around the main chest, and we finalized the location of the main chest and put the reservoir on the floor. We also put some of the offset pipes in place on the chests, to free up space downstairs.

I had run the PVC windline through the chase first thing, and we added the cable later. I glued right angle fittings to the PVC upstairs and downstairs.

We later decided to move the line down and bore a hole through the baseboard, to give it a cleaner look and keep it in line with the matching tube in the console.

We found that in the shop we had worked on the organ with it free standing in the room, so that parts were easy to reach. Once we had it in the tiny room, there was hardly room to move. We decided that the way to create some space was to stack the blower on top of the rectifier. So Richard made a list of parts we would have to purchase, and we set off for the bus station.

We went to Union Square, sharing his luggage, and took the L to 14th Street, where we took the C to 42nd St and the bus station. There at 7 PM we found out the last bus left for our motel at 7:09. We got to the gate in time, and kept the schedule close at hand after that.

After we got Richard into the hotel, we took the company truck to the local Home Depot. We purchased a piece of plywood and had it cut into the shelf we needed and two extra pieces of wood we used for cleats and shims. We purchased a 2X4 and discovered the self-service saw was about the dullest in the store, and not a very good example of what one should purchase there. We ended up with two bags of wood parts and three pieces of plywood tied together. We also found an excellent Italian Restaurant.

On Wednesday, August 8, 2007, we were awakened by lightning and thunder. A torrential downpour was going on, and neither of us had brought an umbrella or cap or coat. The news told of flooded streets and underpasses. I feared this would be a terrible day.

We set out for the 8 AM bus in front of our motel, and found the rain had stopped. Each of us was carrying two items, which didn’t need to get wet, so I was pleased to see that. We lined up with the others and waited for our bus. Many busses passed, full and empty, but none stopped. People arrived for the 8:15 bus and for the 8:30 bus.

Finally a bus passed us going the wrong way, turned around in our motel lot and came and picked us up. We filled that bus. At the next stop the aisle was filled. At the next stop a few more managed to push their way on. Then we set out for the Lincoln Tunnel. Traffic was terrible. On the way many on the bus used their cell phones to call their offices to say they would be late. If they only knew.

When we arrived at the bus station the thundering horde dove down the stairs to the subway, where announcements were being made over the PA system, which couldn’t be understood. We finally got up to where we could hear a man clearly, and he said no trains were running south of 59th St, due to water on the third rail. As we had paid to get into the subway, we were given bus passes and sent to the surface.

We joined about 200,000 other people on the surface, where the throng of people kept traffic at bay. One female traffic officer was trying to direct traffic, and she just threw up her hands. There were so many people trying to get across the street there was no way busses or taxis could get through. The taxi line went around the building.

We walked a couple blocks north, hoping to catch a bus before it got to the crowded area, and eventually we did get on one. Remember we’re carrying stuff through the crowds. And the sun came out and made it nice and muggy following all the rain.

Our bus went south for a time and then turned east almost at the 14th St. subway station, and we saw people going down into the subway, so we took a chance and went down and found the L was running, so we took that to Union Square, and then walked down to Patrick’s apartment, arriving at 11:15, just in time for lunch.

Richard put the stand together and painted it while I did some minor work, and then went to lunch while the paint dried. When we talked with Patrick later he said he heard many people either turned around and went home and took a personal day, or just gave up and walked to their offices. And most arrived about lunchtime.

After lunch we examined the console and saw that the ivories were warping, probably from the extreme changes of humidity in the kindergarten room. So we had to get the console out of there.

We first tried my idea of tying the keyboards up, but the keybed under the keyboards was nearly as deep and the console would not pass the door. Richard measured everything again and recalled that he had said in the last visit that the only way that console would pass was if the baseboard were removed from the back. Then the console would pass squarely through the door. I had checked on Monday and the baseboard was glued on. We decided we had to unglue it.

We turned the console face down on the carpet and attacked the baseboard with my tuning chisel, which promptly broke off. By this time we were very familiar with Ace Hardware one block away, and soon we had a set of four heavy-duty chisels, and we were able to bust the baseboard off.

Then the console would pass the doorframe, but the heavy metal doors projected into the doorframe, so all three, classroom, hall and Patrick’s apartment door, had to be removed. Then it was a simple scoot and the console was in Patrick’s apartment. Then we had to lift the heavy metal doors up to put them back in position. Patrick’s apartment was air-conditioned; the other rooms were not.

Finally the console is in the apartment. We let it sit in front of the air conditioner, where the keys began to relax and the warp come out of the ivory. The broken off baseboard is leaning on the console.

Then we got things set up back in the chamber. We had purchased a welcome mat to put on the floor under the rectifier, which had a nice hum. The mat took care of that. The blower fit on the stand over the rectifier, and the windline was in line with the flange on the reservoir.

We began to add more pipes on the offset chests.

Pedal SpitzPrincipal, Great Bourdon, and Swell Viole da Gambe.

Pedal Bourdon; one stopper handle had to be cut to fit the ceiling.

On Thursday, August 9, we got the manual racks in place and Richard began to wire the switch panel as I began to assemble and connect the console. This was the day his “allergy” was the worst, and the day I began to pick up his “allergy”, and we realized it was really a cold.

The console was placed several places; after we tried it at an angle, Patrick decided he liked it against the sidewall the best. Paul, the maintenance man from the church, came to install the drywall on the chase. He did the upstairs first, and then the downstairs.

He had to work in a very tight space upstairs. We later neatened up all the loose wires.

While Paul worked on the chase downstairs, we put in the pipes upstairs. Here all the pipes are in place. The wooden pipes on the left are the Pedal Bourdon. On the main chest are the Swell Hautbois, Gemshorn and Viole da Gambe, and the Great Bourdon and Principal.

Here’s the difference in the view through the door from Monday to Thursday afternoon.

We found the usual runs in the wiring, most from the cable having been forced through the chase. These were easily cured and we felt encouraged when we left Thursday evening.

That night we went to a café so I could get some chicken noodle soup, as it was obvious I was getting sick, as Richard was getting well. I also got a “cold-buster” smoothie, made of orange juice, orange sherbet, strawberries and several medicines, which tasted rather medicinal. I did not sleep well that night.

On Friday, August 10, we woke to pouring rain, and this time it rained all day, until we were ready to load the truck to come home. I was dead sick the whole time, so I was not much help to Richard. We drove the truck into town and arrived at the perfect time of 8:30, when street parking was legal. I had to feed the meter a credit card every hour.

When we arrived we were surprised to find that Patrick had cleaned up. All our pipe boxes were neatly stacked, along with our pads. All the leftover historic material was beside the fireplace, and the floor had been mopped. We were impressed.

We got everything tuned and regulated, and then Patrick came in to listen to the organ. The organ sounds best in his upstairs bedroom, or on the landing of the staircase. For some reason it really disperses in the living room. So he decided that we should locate the console as close to the stairs as possible. Then he will put the harpsichord over near the chase, where we originally were to locate the console.

As we had plenty of PVC tubing, extending the windline was no problem, and the cable was plenty long enough.

We had to run to lunch through the rain, and both of us got soaked. I was freezing as I had a fever and it was a cool rainy day. So by the time we were ready to load the truck, I was not much help. Patrick would have preferred us to run through the reed regulation again, but I was wiped. Richard carried most of the stuff by himself. I could help carry boxes down and then sit and cough for a time, till I could breathe again.

We finally got away at 5, and Richard drove. As we approached the Lincoln Tunnel he asked if I had put in the broken baseboard from the console. I said no, and we turned around and went back. Then at 6, after we had picked it up, we left the second and final time.

I still had the fever and was cold, so Richard had to keep the truck warm for me as I slept. We stopped at the final exit in New Jersey and ate at a Cracker Barrel that will not win any awards for speed or quality of food. It was after that, about 10 PM, that my fever broke and I first turned on the vent and then the AC.

We arrived back at the shop at 11:30 PM, and I went home and went to bed and slept most of Saturday, so I could play for church on Sunday.

On October 23 & 24 we returned to finish up. We had repaired the broken-off baseboard and installed that on the console. Then we went through the organ and did all the finish work, tidying up and regulating the pipes.

The Swell motor now works the door to the former bedroom, so there is expression on the organ. The original swell shades and the restored swell engine have been put in storage, so that when Patrick moves in the future, they can be reunited with the organ.

After we finished our work, Patrick invited guests to come see and play the organ. In this picture his cat, Stevie, is resting on the harpsichord.