A Sad Kilgen Story

A Sad Kilgen StoryBy James Grebe

St. Louis was the home of the George Kilgen Pipe Organ Company, which was located in north St. Louis.  Between the years 1911 and 1927 Kilgen had installed at least 22 pipe organs, including the largest unified organ they built in their entire history, that were installed in St. Louis theatres.  I have not found any that were resurrected in any form anywhere in the St. Louis area. 

St. Louis Pipe Organ is arguably the largest service provider of extent Kilgen organs on the planet.  Recently in speaking with Alan Nagel, owner of St. Louis Pipe Organ Co, whose firm took over all the Kilgen ledgers and records and service, when Kilgen went bankrupt around 1959 I posed 3 questions.

1.                 Have you run across ANY Kilgen Tibias in any of the organs that you have serviced since your taking over the company?  Answer , NO 2.  Have you serviced any Kilgen organs in and around St. Louis with wind Pressure 8” or higher? Answer, NO 2.                 Have you come across any Kilgen horseshoe consoles in or around St. Louis?Answer, NO.I had thought, if he did, this would be some clue as to what might have happened at least to some.  As a result, we can only conclude that out of these 22 theatre organs Kilgen installed here, none survived in whole or in part.  It is a shame that the home town of one of the larger theatre pipe organ companies in the world could not have one example of the brand.  Indeed, there is only one theatre in the world that has an original Kilgen Theatre Organ (a 3m/11r) in it’s original location, the Palace, in Canton, Ohio, one of the featured organs in this years ATOS convention in Cleveland, Ohio.  So, we can only conclude that all of Kilgen’s theatre instruments wound up being junked.  A shame for our heritage in St. Louis.

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