‘Largest Private Pipe Organ West of the Mississippi’ Being Restored in Burien


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Resident John White sent us this pic – showing  Chelsea Thompson and Tom Britanyak working on restoring the ‘largest private pipe organ west of the Mississippi’ – at the historic Forest Ledge Mansion in Burien’s Seahurst neighborhood (click image to see larger version):

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White told The B-Town Blog that full restoration of the historic instrument will cost in excess of $200K.

“It’s going to take me a couple of years to clean everything up, but things are looking much better than first thought,” said Thompson.

The pipe organ suffered from neglect, water damage and aging, but is currently being restored along with the rest of the mansion, which White hopes to live in eventually.

According to Britanyak:

The organ at Seahurst is a large Kilgen theater style organ complete with a large assortment of percussion devices such as chimes, vibraharp, xylophone, marimba, tuned sleigh bells and a wonderful assortment of “toys” like crash cymbals, train whistles, car horns and drums. The console is very large and has an unusual architecture and stop layout…not like the typical horseshoe theater instrument.

The goal is to restore the instrument to full playing capability via a number of avenues, while maintaining the original design for historical and architectural posterity. Part of the challenge has been dealing with the significant water damage the organ has been exposed to for many years. Fortunately, to my delight, the woodwork and pipes are cleaning up well…a testament to the quality materials the original Kilgen company was known for.

The organ itself originally consisted of about 30 ranks equaling about 2500 pipes. It has Choir, Solo and Great divisions, a Library division and a functional Geigen Principal facade above the fireplace. The blower to power all the organ’s functions and pipes is located in the basement and stands about 5′ high.

The Library division was designed to provide music to the upstairs library via wooden grates in the floor. There are also panels that open up to allow the library division to speak out into the ballroom to complement the organ’s main divisions. Interestingly, the Library division was connected to a roll player which allowed the library division to play unattended, automatically.

The organ should be playing before next Christmas. In consulting with professional performers regarding the fine nuances of this project, there has been a great deal of excitement brewing among those who are lining up to play this “King of Instruments”.

If you recognize John White’s name, he is the Executive Producer of a new film – being shot locally in 2013 – called “The Maury Island Incident.” To learn more about White, click here; to learn about the film, visit www.mauryislandincident.com or “Like” them on Facebook here.

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Comments

9 Responses to “‘Largest Private Pipe Organ West of the Mississippi’ Being Restored in Burien”
  1. TcB says:

    Now this is a piece of history that I was completely clueless about, and Seahurst is one of my old ‘hoods yo.

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  2. Diana says:

    I was so delighted to see the article about this wonderful home and the historic organ being restored! I have been so curious about that home since it was offered for sale. Is there any way to find out about the history of that home and the organ? What a wonderful and important undertaking! I’m so happy that someone has fallen in love with that place and has the means to bring it all back to life. Way to go!

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    • Betsy says:

      I thought Scott did a profile of the home when it was purchased. It was great to learn about this old house and so happy to see it being restored.

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  3. Abby says:

    This isn’t from the old Pizza and Pipes in Greenwood, is it? That would make my inner child so happy!

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  4. Don Crawley says:

    Thanks to Scott for your coverage of the restoration of this pipe organ. It’s very exciting that this instrument is being restored and I’m sure everyone in the Seattle/Tacoma pipe organ community salutes Mr. White for this undertaking. To describe this instrument as the largest west of the Mississippi is, however, quite a stretch. In the Seattle/Tacoma area alone, there are several instruments much larger including the Rosales instrument and the Hutchings-Votey instrument at St. James Cathedral and the 4,000 pipe Flentrop instrument at St. Marks Cathedral. Even among theatre organs, there are many West Coast instruments that are much larger, such as the 6,000 pipe Wurlitzer at Organ Stop Pizza in Phoenix (http://www.organstoppizza.com/the-pipe-organ/specifications/). It will certainly be a thrill to hear this organ when the restoration is complete. Anyone who is interested in more information about the King of Instruments and Seattle-area pipe organ events can visit the American Guild of Organists Seattle Chapter website at http://www.agoseattle.com/ or the Tacoma chapter at http://www.tacomaago.org/.

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  5. JOhn says:

    This is by no means the largest pipe organ west of the Mississippi!… it is a large THEATRE organ, but there are hundreds of larger pipe organs west of the Mississippi

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    • UPDATE: Sorry for any confusion – I have been told that this is actually the “largest PRIVATE pipe organ” west of the Mississippi. thanks, scott

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      • Tom B says:

        I toured the organ in 2010 when the house was for sale. Great news it’s being restored! The organ is far from the largest private pipe organ west of the Mississippi. In fact, there are several organs in residences here in the Puget Sound area that are at least twice the size in terms of number of pipes. The organ has a very large three-manual Kilgen console. Perhaps it’s the biggest Kilgen brand console west of the Mississippi?

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  6. Carly Waterman says:

    This is fantastic! How can the community help with this project?

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