Local Organs

Local Theatre Organs

Cleveland Grays ARMORY MUSEUM

Wurlitzer Opus 2153 was originally installed in the Warner Theatre in Erie Pennsylvania.  When the theatre was slated for demolition in 1969, the organ was moved, renovated, and installed in the Cleveland Grays Armory Museum over a two and one-half year period involving over 10,000 hours of volunteer labor.

The organ was originally a 3 manual 13 rank Style 240 instrument consisting of these ranks of pipes: Trumpet, Harmonic Tuba, Diaphonic Diapason, Horn Diapason,  Tibia Clausa, Clarinet, Kinura, Orchestral Oboe, Viol D”Orchestre, Viol Celeste, Salicional, Concert Flute and Vox Humana.  The organ has since been augemented to 17 ranks that includes the addition of the massive 32 foot wood diaphones.  In 2021, the blower was upgraded to a 10 hp motor from the original 7 1/2 hp motor.

The instrument has well over 1,000 pipes plus chimes, glockenspiel, tuned sleigh bells, and a toy counter (traps, drums, boat whistle, train whistle, auto horn, grand crash cymbal and bird whistle).  The smallest pipe is about the size of a pencil and the largest pipe is 32 feet in length and weighs in excess of 2,000 pounds.

With the exception of the added ranks and upgraded blower, the instrument is considered to be in its original factory condition that includes the original console pneumatics, piston combination setter board and the original pneumatic relay with its original cloth covered 1,300 wire cable that connects to the console.

The Wurlitzer can be seen and heard in periodic public concerts featuring professional artists and during special events.


Cleveland Masonic Auditorium

Wurlitzer Opus 793 was installed in the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara California in February 1924 where it served until the 1950’s.  Originally a 4/17 Special, Dr. Orrin Hostetter moved it to his Pasadena residence and added eleven additional ranks.  Mr. Wade Bray purchased the instrument in 1996 and gave it safe harbor in Brighton Michigan until he generously donated it to WRTOS in 2006.

WRTOS found the organ a home in the acoustically excellent Cleveland Masonic Auditorium.  A team of volunteers invested over 6,000 hours and $110,000 in chamber construction, repairs, re-leathering and upgrades.  Many of the eleven added ranks were replaced as was the blower and relay.   The organ currently has 28 ranks plus several tuned percussions, traps and a toy counter.  The inaugural concert of the organ was held on November 5, 2011.

Canton Ohio Organ

Canton Palace Theatre

On the opening night in 1926, patrons of the Palace Theatre were treated to the sounds of the Kilgen Wonder Organ at the hands of the famous Banks Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy signed the wall of the left pipe chamber and wrote that “Valencia” was the first piece heard by the public. His signature has been preserved and remains there today.

Built by George Kilgen & Sons, Inc. of St. Louis, Missouri, the organ served as one of their show instruments in the Canton Ohio area and was pictured in their national sales literature.

The Palace Kilgen has always been a crowd pleaser and the theatre management kept the organ in reasonably regular use through WWII and into the 1950s.  The organ saw intermittent use in the 60’s and 70’s in between stages of its disrepair and temporary closing of the theatre.  A group of rescuers (Charles Kegg, Clark Wilson, Charles Blair and Robert Beck) patched and repaired the organ enough that it would play again for the reopening of the John Eberson Spanish style atmospheric theatre in 1980.

In 1992 the Kegg Organ Company removed the entire organ from the building for an eight-month full restoration effort. The console was stripped, redecorated, repainted and refitted with all new controls. Two new ranks (sets) of pipes were added to bring the rank count to 11, with a total of 767 pipes. Clark Wilson was the artist for the 1993 rededication concert.

The organ was featured as part of the 2009 and 2016 annual convention of the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS).  The organ continues to be used frequently for pre-show music, silent movies, and theatre organ concerts.


When it first opened in 1928, the theatre boasted a three manual, ten rank Kimball Organ in the Nicola Petti Grand Baroque style theatre. For many years, the instrument was enjoyed by patrons before shows, during intermissions and after shows. In the 1950’s, repairs were desperately needed but the theatre’s owners would not appropriate funds. Eventually, the Kimball organ was used very sporadically and eventually sold.

From the beginning of the rebirth of the theatre in the early 1980’s, the replacement of the theatre organ was a high priority. In October 1983, the “Kearns” theatre organ was purchased, one of only three of its kind, and one of the top-of-the-line instruments manufactured by the Wurlitzer Company.

The organ was originally built for Warner Brothers Vitaphone Company and installed in its Sunset Boulevard Studio in 1929. From here, it was moved to Radio Station KMX, a CBS unit, where it was used daily to play the “Amos ‘n’ Andy Show” theme song. In 1955, the late Hollywood actor Joseph Kearns (best known as Mr. Wilson on TV’s “Dennis the Menace”) bought it and actually built his entire home around it. An avid organist and enthusiast, Kearns upgraded the original three manual, 18-rank configurations to include 26 ranks (since reduced to 20).  After Kearns’ death, the organ changed owners several times before being purchased by the theatre.

The Mighty Wurlitzer was installed in early 1985 with the help of Ken Crome, one of America’s foremost theatre organ authorities. Restoration work on the instrument took him a full year. The first “official” concert on the instrument was performed by Lyn Larsen on May 17, 1985.

The organ was featured as part of the 2009 and 2016 annual convention of the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS).


The Loew’s Theatre in Akron was to be built on the site of the long abandoned Hippodrome Arcade at 185 South Main St.  The only part that was actually built was a high ceiling tunneled opening onto Main St.  The original promoter of the project ran out of cash for the 1918 project.  In June of 1928 a wrecking crew razed the Hippodrome skeleton.  Later that summer a construction crew from Cleveland began building the New Loew’s theatre.  The 3,000 seat theatre designed by John Eberson in the Moorish Castle design opened to the public on Saturday, April 20, 1929.

The theatre was built for sound movies.  The opening day movie was an “all-talking” movie titled “The Voice of the City.”

The theatre operated as a Loew’s until 1964 when it was sold to Karam Joseph who originally intended to demolish it for a parking lot.  Costs to demolish and other legal issues prohibited the original intent.  The theatre was then leased to Kelly Operating Company of Cleveland.  It was then known as “The Cinema.”  In 1965 in response to a community interest to keep the theatre, the Akron Jaycees bought the theatre from Karam Joseph.  A non-profit organization called the Community Hall Foundation was created to manage it.  The theatre was renamed the “Akron Civic Theatre.”

Not unlike other theatres from the 1920s, the Civic Theatre had its ups and downs as to its continued existence.  With numerous fundraisers, grants, memberships, the support of the local business community and many volunteers the theatre was able to renovate the building several times to its current grandeur.

The Wurlitzer organ, Opus 2029, a Style 240 Special, was originally installed in 1929 as 3 manual 13 rank organ in the John Eberson atmospheric movie house in the Akron Civic Theatre, formerly the Loew’s Akron Theatre, in downtown Akron, Ohio.  The organ was refurbished and restored in 1973 and again in 2000 by Carlton Smith Pipe Organ Restorations, under the tonal direction of Lyn Larsen when an additional 6 ranks of pipes were added.  The console of the organ is on a lift that rises upward and can turn 90 degrees horizontally.  The opening organist was Estelle Ruth.  Later the organ was played by “Wild Oscar” and Ken Alexander.

The Civic Theatre was the site of many WRTOS sponsored silent movies starting in October of 1970.

The organ was featured as part of the 2009 and 2016 annual convention of the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS).


The 1928 Lorain Palace was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by the Variety Amusement Company with 1,720 seats and is the largest single floor theatre in Ohio. The 3/10 Wurlitzer, Opus 1858, was shipped in March 1928 as a Style 220.  This organ is one of the quickly vanishing breeds of absolutely original and essentially unadulterated theatre pipe organ installations found anywhere.

Wurlitzer designed a series of standard models which were given a style designation. A lot of standard models were built and sold, but many of Wurlitzer’s theater organs were not “standard” and thus designated as “specials”.  In the end, Wurlitzer wound up building more “specials” than standard theater organ models.  The Palace Theater’s Wurlitzer is a model 220.  Based on the earlier H3M Wurlitzer model, the Palace’s organ is one of only seven ever built in this style. It is also one of only two Wurlitzer’s of this particular style – worldwide – that is still in its original installed location and in its original installed condition.

The Wurlitzer Style 220 has three manuals (keyboards), ten ranks of pipes, and many special effects (drums, bells, etc.) typical of cinema organs of its era.  The console is positioned in the orchestra pit and, thanks to a 2014 reinstall/refurbishment, can once again rise majestically on a lift for solo presentation and then, once the featured organist has performed, will again descend gracefully back into the orchestra pit.

A virtually unknown and certainly unseen feature of the Lorain Palace Wurlitzer is its organ chambers.  These chambers that house the ranks of pipes, the percussion, and the organs other effects, are tucked away behind the walls on either side of the Palace stage. It is from these chambers in conjunction with the sole power source for the organ – Spencer Turbine Company’s Spencer Steel Orgoblo – located in the basement that the Mighty Wurlitzer gets its might.

The organ was featured as part of the 2009 and 2016 annual convention of the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS).



The 1,800-seat Spanish Colonial Mission Style Schine’s State Theatre was opened October 12, 1928. It is equipped with a 3 manual 8 ranks Golden Voiced Marvel Page theatre pipe organ. In September 1930 it was taken over by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp. They were evicted from the theatre in 1933 for non-payment of rent and it was then operated by Seltz Theatre Company. In the 1960’s the Page organ was sold to an organ enthusiast in Detroit. In 1995 due to his ill health, he gave back the organ to the State Theatre.  After its reinstallation in 1999, Dennis James accompanied the silent film “gold Rush” for the organ’s rededication.

Scott Smith of Scott Smith Pipe Organs LLC did extensive work on the organ to improve its winding and regulation.  A new Uniflex relay was installed.  Carlton Smith did the restoration work on the console. Lance Luce played the rededication concert in 2013.

A strong windstorm on June 9, 2020 ripped the roof off the stage house and also severely damaged the roof over the front orchestra seating, resulting in damage to that section of the auditorium when the ceiling collapsed and also to the console of the organ.  The Theatre is working to be completely renovated for its 100 year anniversary in 2028.


The Marion Palace Theatre was first home to an ornate, three-manual Page Rainbow Gold. The instrument was built specifically for the Marion location in 1928. Unique in its finish, the Page shone beams of light into the auditorium as the spotlight reflected off its surfaceBanks Kennedy, who opened the Canton Palace Theatre Kilgen organ in 1926, was the opening organist for the Marion Palace Theatre on August 30th of 1928.  He played his new composition “Everybody’s Welcome to the Palace.”

While the timing of the sale is disputed, it is agreed upon that theatre management sold the organ to help pay down the struggling Theatre’s debt. Valuing the history of the theatre organ’s role, new management later replaced the Page with The Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ.

The Wurlitzer is a 3 manual, 10 rank Style 235 Special “Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra.” Opus 893. The instrument left the Wurlitzer factory on Aug. 30, 1924. It was originally installed in the Mars Theatre, Lafayette, Indiana, which is now the Long Center. The organ was later installed in the Lavonia, Michigan residence of Al Mason, a former national president of the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS).

The late Tom Yannitell procured the organ and, with the help of a crew of volunteers, installed it at the Marion Palace Theatre. The installation was completed in time for the 50th anniversary and reopening of the Palace in 1978.

The Wurlitzer sits atop a giant gear (lift) that elegantly lifts the Mighty Wurlitzer from the orchestra pit into full view of an awe struck audience.

Electronics upgrades to the organ include the 1989 installation of a Z-tronics relay, taking the place of the original electro-pneumatic relay. Additionally, a Trousdale combination action was installed in 1991-92. Utilizing modern digital electronics, it replaced the original, console-filling electro-pneumatic action. At the same time, more stop tabs were added, bringing the total number of tabs to around 120. Other upgrades were the 2003 installation of a Z-tronics MIDI system and an almost complete restoration of the organ from 2001-2003.

The Marion Palace is a John Eberson designed atmospheric theatre in the Spanish Moorish style, one of a small number atmospheric theatres remaining including the Akron Civic Theatre in Akron, Ohio and the Canton Palace Theatre in Canton, Ohio.

In July 2016, the American Theatre Organ Society included the Marion Palace Theatre as part of its annual convention.

Ashtabula Ohio Theatre Organ

Lakeside Performing Arts Center (Lakeside High School Ashtabula, Ohio)

The Kimball theatre pipe organ was originally installed in the Lincoln-Dixie Theatre in Chicago Heights, Illinois in 1921. Originally a 2 manual 8 rank instrument, it was saved and enlarged by Mr. Gary Rickert in his Chicago home to 3 manuals and 15 ranks. Donated by Mr. Rickert in 2013, the organ found a its new home in the Lakeside Performing Arts Center largely due to the efforts of William “Bud” Hill who believed that the organ would be a great asset to the school and community.

Installation and restoration was performed by Vic Marsilio of Victor Organ Company in Austintown, Ohio. All wiring was replaced to meet the requirements of the National Electric Code and a Peterson ICS-4000 Operating System was installed. The solid oak case and façade pipes from the 1920 Austin Pipe Organ, Opus 1156, Pilgrim Colligiate Church, Youngstown, Ohio, has been installed in the front of the Kimball’s organ chambers and is intended to resemble the façade pipes in the Mandel Concert Hall at Cleveland’s historic Severance Music Center. An Orchestral Oboe rank has been added to the organ making a total of 16 ranks. The original Spencer blower has been replaced with a larger (7.5 hp) blower.

Jelani Eddington played the dedication concert on April 12, 2014 and the organ continues to be used for silent movies, concerts and special events.

In memory of Bud Hill’s long-standing service and dedication to the Ashtabula Foundation Board, the William W. Hill Pipe Organ Fund was established to help support activities surrounding the Kimball Theater Pipe Organ at Lakeside High School, including the tuning, maintenance, repairs, and upkeep, so that it can remain operational and ready for performances.