THE STORY OF WURLITZER OPUS 1677
Opus 1677, a two manual (keyboard), ten rank theatre organ, was originally built in 1926 for the Newhaven, Connecticut Paramount Olympia Theater. It was the age of silent motion pictures and this Wurlitzer accompanied feature films, news reels, live stage performances and community sings. The uniqueness of the theatre organ involved revolutionary inventions of a British born engineer, Robert Hope-Jones. Hope-Jones succeeded in breaking the age-old limitation imposed by mechanical action organs, allowing the console to be separated from the pipe work by great distances. During the height of the silent movie era, Hope-Jones brought his talents to the Wurlitzer Company where thousands of band organs were being produced for theaters around the world. The Wurlitzer was technically a one-person orchestra rather than the traditional organ found in churches. By combining high wind pressure pipe work with real percussion and sound effects instruments such as drums, xylophones, police sirens, and the like, Wurlitzer developed an instrument so vastly unique in its sound and power, that it has never been paralleled by anything else in the musical realm.
In 1985, this unique sound and power captured the fancy of Jackson, Louisiana business man-engineer Leroy Harvey, Jr. Harvey set out to find a Mighty Wurlitzer for the town of Jackson His original plan was to install the instrument in a pavilion to be constructed in front of Bank of Jackson Building on Charter Street. In the same time period, a group was forming to establish a museum to celebrate the rich Southern heritage of the area. Harvey revised his plan and installed the organ, which he purchased from an owner in Texas, in the old McKowen High School auditorium which had become the site of the Republic Of West Florida Historical Museum. Today, the organ is available for all to enjoy. A digital computer player enables visitors to experience live performances even when an organist is not present. In the Fall of 1999, a silent movie viewing theatre was established to allow the organ to assume its original role, that of providing accompaniment of classic films.
Upkeep and maintenance of this complex grand instrument presents a challenge to the museum In 1997, the organ was "adopted" by members of the American Theatre Organ Society, who now provide maintenance, tuning, and specially trained organists to keep the music and the theatre organ spirit alive. Experience the "Mighty Wurlitzer", truly the "King of Instruments".