2014-12-11 / Around Town

Hook and Hastings Organ Still Bellowing at Age 120

A dream of Peter Stoltzfus Berton and the leaders of St. John the Evangelist is to raise a staggering $250,000 for organ repair and other causes by the 125th anniversary of the building in 2019.

That might not buy a house in Newport, but it will thoroughly repair the chamber, clean and restore the pipes, and leave a substantial maintenance endowment.

We aren’t discussing a piccolo here:

• The organ chamber has 1,769 pipes.

• The largest pipe is 16 feet long, 18 inches square, made of maple.

• The smallest pipe is a half-inch long in speaking length, about 1/16 of an inch in diameter, made of tin and lead.

• All but five of the painted fa├žade pipes are speaking pipes, made of zinc.

• The only materials used in the organ are wood, leather, ivory and soft metals.

• Modern electronic circuits have replaced some of the mechanical operations but no frequency is enhanced or created by electronic or digital simulation while original pipes and chest are being restored.

The church is raising $25,000 for lasting repairs in the near-term and that quarter of a million to keep in going. The Hook and Hastings organ was installed as part of the original construction of the church 120 years ago. It was one of the last manufactured, installed and updated by the company before it went out of business and has great historical significance.

According to church leaders, the organ sustained water damage from a roof leak and hundreds of pipes have been damaged over 12 decades.

“There is still much renovation work down the road to be done. We are shooting toward the 125th anniversary,” said Berton. “But we are also glad to feature music from the organ as it is today.”

– James Merolla

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