George Eastman loved orchestral organ music and used it often for entertainment with others. In 1905 he hired the Aeolian Organ Company out of NYC to install what was named the “South Organ”. Then in 1918 he added what we now call the “North Organ” chamber. Throughout the 26 years George Eastman lived in the house the organ continued to expand – adding additional pipes and chambers and eventually creating what was likely the first “in stereo” experience in a private residence.
Several years later, after the house was established as a museum, there was an unfortunate fire that destroyed many of the organ pipes. Since the fire, there had been little interest in restoring the missing organ chamber. That all changed last year when a gentlemen in California (after many conversations) graciously donated his Aeolian 1345 organ to George Eastman House. The donor even covered the cost to ship the instrument across the country and cover final restoration costs (est. six figure donation).
This particular pipe organ is extremely similar to the original. When the project is complete, approximately 2,329 pipes (that’s right, 2,329) will have been installed. Visitors will again be able to hear what George Eastman heard many years ago- an organ that plays like an entire orchestra.
We’re documenting the project and will continue to add to this album throughout. Take a look at some of the large metal and wooden pipes delivered last week. These will continue to be installed over the next few weeks – then the testing and tuning will begin.
Lisa Kribs-LaPierre is the former Manager of Online Engagement at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.