The Austin Organ


Austin Organ Co., Opus 362, 1914, III/43

The oldest pipe organ remaining in the city of Atlanta, an Austin Organ, was built in 1912 for $12,000, and was installed in Trinity Methodist Church’s new sanctuary.  It was the original idea of Trinity’s organist, Charles Sheldon, Jr. The Atlanta Journal in October 7, 1912 described it as such:

In the “great organ” there are seven stops and seven couplers, containing 427 pipes.  The “small organ” has thirteen stops and two couplers, containing 1,010 pipes: also a tremulant.  The “orchestral organ” has eleven stops and five couplers, containing 728 pipes, and a tremulant is attached to these, the original idea of Charles Sheldon, Jr., and a wonderful effect is produced. 

The “echo organ” is placed in an ideal chamber built in the back of the auditorium of latticed brick.  It is operated from either keyboard of the main organ, and contains five stops and 305 pipes, besides the cathedral chimes of twenty bells.

The “pedal organ” has nine stops and four couplers.  Here is the tremendous thundering “Resultant Bass” a 32-foot stop, which is a contrast to the ½ inch piccolo in the swell. So we find in the entire organ 3,844 pipes, giving various strains and combinations of harmony.

Under the direct supervision of Mr. Sheldon the organ has been installed.  He drew up the scheme and specifications for the instrument and went to the factory to explain his ideas. 

The action of the organ is electro pneumatic throughout with a 5-horsepower motor and an air cheat which provides a 6-inch pressure to each pipe under all conditions.  A rare feature of the organ is the harp effect. 

In the keeping with the organ’s generous size of 43 ranks, it possesses a large façade of 31 non-speaking pipes, all of which are about 22 feet in length and 9 to 10 inches in scale and finished in Oriental bronze to complement the brick façade and interior of the church.  Above and behind the full length pipes, 32 canisters or “cans” as they are affectionately known, complete the illusion of additional pipes.

In the fellowship hall located behind the sanctuary reside 28 shorter and smaller scale non-speaking pipes.  An unusual feature of the organ allows only the Swell division (controlled by remotely placed, two manual “slave console”) to speak into the fellowship hall; a second, three-manual console is located in the assembly hall behind the sanctuary.  Additionally, this unique instrument, voiced under the influences of Robert Hope-Jones is orchestral in nature; the only one of its kind in Atlanta. 

Also of note:

·       Five of its forty-three ranks of pipes came from the old Whitehall St. church.

·       Edwin H. Lamare of Chattanooga, TN (municipal organist at Soldiers and Sailers Memorial Auditorium) was the consultant for the new organ contact (1911-1912). 

·       Tonal design influenced by Robert Hope Jones during his tenure at Austin Organ Company

On Monday, November 19, at 8pm, Charles A. Sheldon Jr., gave the inaugural recital on Trinity’s new organ.  He was assisted by the regular choir of the church.  No admission was charged, but a free-will offering was taken to help the ministers of the North Georgia conference.

The program was as follows:

Suite for organ (a) Prologue; (b) March (c) Intermezzo; (d) Toccata-Rogers

Spring Song – Mendelssohn

“Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Languide?”  Sheldon – Trinity Choir

In 1995, the current three-manual console in the sanctuary was rebuilt to accommodate a solid-state memory system by A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Sales and Service of Lthonia, Georgia. 

In 2009, restorative work was done by Michael Proscia Organbuilder, Inc., in Bowdon, Georgia.  The following description details the work done.

96 years of atmospheric and seasonal climate changes, expansion and contraction of the natural wood bracing material began to take its toll in the sanctuary façade.  Scallop boards and their supports began separating from the masonry, allowing the large façade pipes to pull away from the wall into the organ.  Upon seeing this horrifying sight and to prevent a potential disaster from occurring, the curator of the organ, Mr. Kevin Cartwright, immediately set about assembling a team of volunteers to remove to a safe place (a large balcony at the rear of the church) all 31 of the façade pipes plus the 32 “cans.”  Unfortunately, however, while resting on the sanctuary floor, waiting placement in the balcony, ten pipes sustained severe damage when several unknowing little feet trampled upon them. 

While removing the fellowship hall façade pipes, we uncovered protection sections of pipes that had retained their original finish.  Restoring the original color was a particular concern to the Board of Trustees.  We were pleased to have made the discovery.

Part one of the projects involved installing steel I-beams rails and 90 degree plates firmly bolted and cemented into the masonry to support the strengthened scallop boards of the sanctuary façade prior to installation of the pipes and cans.  Part two involved stripping, cleaning and repairing or replacing the pipework prior to applications of color coats and sealer, restoring them to their original finish.  The work was completed in March of 2009.