Cleveland Public Auditorium
We have intentionally planned an adequate amount of time to enjoy this epic municipal landmark designed by the Cleveland architectural firm of Walker & Weeks. This heroic building is a rare surviving example of rapidly vanishing civic architecture. Long gone are the similar arenas and exhibition halls in Memphis, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Saint Paul, and Worcester. The Cleveland complex is structured with a large exhibition arena, seating over 16,000 patrons, on the north end and a movie palace-styled theater, seating 2,700 patrons, on the south end—both joined by a common stage house having a proscenium opening toward each.
The five-manual, 1922 Skinner organ (Opus 328) speaks into either hall From the common stage house. Built as Skinner’s magnum opus, the instrument cost a phenomenal $100,000 when new. The specifications were drawn up Ernest M. Skinner, with input from Edwin Arthur Kraft, William E. Zeuch, Charles Heinroth, Wallace Goodrich, and Lynnwood Farnam. Kraft played the dedication, at which concert reviewer, Cleveland composer and fellow organist, James H. Rodgers, noted that over 20,000 people were on hand at perhaps the largest organ recital in history. The main organ has twin 30-horsepower Spencer blowers providing 10²–30² wind pressure. It contains four full-length 32¢ stops, numerous high-pressure stops, a floating string division, and orchestral stops of every imaginable variety. A rare feature of the instrument is the Skinner-built Vorsetzer action that used to be positioned in front of a Mason & Hamlin grand piano on stage. While the piano has not been located, the player mechanism remains. Though the original console was disconnected many years ago and a supply house console with matching appointments substituted in its place, the original is still stored in the convention complex. Except for its present console the organ largely remains as installed and untouched.
A little over a year ago, the organ was “fired-up” for the first time in about 20 years. Stay tuned for additional information on the progress of a partnership between the Organ Historical Society and the American Institute of Organ Builders to bring this organ out of hibernation.