Wicks Pipe Organs in St. Louis

Wicks Pipe Organs for St. Louis by James Grebe In St. Louis, the Wicks Organ Company had only 2 examples during the heyday of theatre organs.  In 1919, Kilgen had installed their Opus 3014, a 2m/10r organ, at the Grand Opera House in downtown St. Louis.  It served until 1928 when Wicks was contacted to erect their opus 779.  When the existing organ was replaced, save the pipework, for the sum of $3,000.00 that was the only in theatre organ Wicks did here.  The organ was enlarged for  a  2 manual to a new 3 manual console. In files at the factory it mentions something about the organ came from Chicago but is very vague in the details. Not anything is known of the further disposition of that organ.    In March of 1936, the organ from the Grand (Opus 779) was purchased by Walter Brummer of Granite City (Midwest Organ Service) and installed in St. Paul United Church of Christ in Belleville, IL.  The organ was bought for $700 and was adopted to the new sanctuary and installed by Brummer.  The installation cost was $1800.00.  The organ was paid for by a Memorial gift from Rose and Martha Keil and was named the Sophia M Keil Organ.    By the May 1, 1951 the organ was needing to be rebuilt again and this time for $7,500.00, a new 3 manual console was built by Moller and enlarged from 10 ranks to 14 ranks spread over 43 speaking stops, 14 couplers, and 25 combination pistons. It was dedicated on March 9, 1952.  PAUL Godt was the organist for that dedication.  Paul was the orginal artist that played the Majestic Theatre in East St. Louis where there was a Wurlitzer 2m/8r which is now the core organ that graces the Fox Theatre Lobby.  In the year 1958 another contract was signed with Walter Brummer to remove, rebuild, and enlarge and re-install the organ in the new sanctuary just built for $8,900. On October 11, 1959 the new organ was again dedicated.  In the year 1986, a new organ fund was begun to purchase a new organ within 5 years and the new organ was installed on October 11, 1959 and the long beleaguered organ that was comprised of the original Grand Opera House Kilgen, then Wicks, then Moller was disposed of to a fellow from a Baptist Church in the flower district of St. Louis.  Thus , this is one fo the few theatre installations that we have as history of from start to finish.More information can be had for the other Wicks installation at Radio Station WIL.  In 1929, WIL signed a contract for $5,500.00 to construct a 2m/7r organ.  The organ was to have reveille tubes and a sostenuto pedal.  I can only assume the notes for reveille were chime tubes with the notes needed to play that sequence of notes.  Just to show you that deceit is not only a modern thing the following is interesting.

 As part of the purchase price of $5,500.00 it was going to be reduced by $2,000.00 in free advertising for Wicks Pipe Organs for the period of 1 year.  The contract was signed on April 16, 1929 and already by May 4, 1929 the organ had been installed, WOW, what speed.  The reason it could be installed that quickly was that Wicks had a sales studio at 3680 Lindell to broadcast organ recitals.    This was on WIL and Wicks paid for the wire charge (the cost to send the signal to the radio station for re-broadcast).  Wicks was asked to participate in the opening of their new studio.  In a letter about the reeds of the organ, Wicks wrote that all heavy reeds and chimes are not made by the Wicks factory but purchased in the east and since almost every one is different in some way or another, they carry none in stock.  In notes from WIL  informed Wicks that their station was picked up from as far as Oxnard, CA and Marietta, GA, Johnstown , PA, and UTICA, NY.  The organ was to be placed on the Melbourne Hotel roof and was signed by the Missouri Broadcasting Co. No mention of what ranks were unified, but keeping with Wick’s practices it would have been unified to the extreme.

In November 1933, WIL organist, Jerre Cammack, corresponded with Wicks that there was a leak (leaking roof) in the organ chamber.  There was a disagreement whether Wicks would repair the organ damage. In the repair estimate from Wicks was the sum of $75 to re-voice and repair the trumpet and it’s chest. Later, the verbal agreement between the radio station and Wicks was not honored by WIL.  A subsequent letter from the radio station wanted the repair price reduced.  Wicks related that  earlier bills for tuning related it and many, many repairs had not been paid in the past.  The final letter states that they would pay the amount with further free advertising and playing the organ, at least 3 times a year.  By November 22,1944 WIL wrote to Wicks that they were no longer using the organ and were going to place it up for sale and signed by David Pasternack, Program Director.  On August 30, 1971 Martin Wick wrote a letter to WIL inquiring about the status of the organ and WIL responded that they no longer had that piece of equipment.  There is no indication on what happened to the organ as the story ends there.Such is the story of another financial fiasco.  How much money Wicks really got for the organ is unknown but it is a sure thing that there was NO profit in the sale.Sources:Chris Soer, Norbert Krausz


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