The 1837 Pipe Organ

Photo from the OHS Pipe Organ Database

The Opus 1 pipe organ, created by Alvinza Andrews in 1837, served the Vernon Center church for much of the church’s history.

Alvinza Andrews built the organ at his original workshop in Waterville, NY. But the organ didn’t start its career here – it was first installed at the Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church in Vernon–not Vernon Center. But when the Mt. Vernon congregation wanted a larger organ, they sold this one to Vernon Center in 1850, where remained there until 2007.

Originally, the organ was placed in the balcony! Well before electricity, or the advent of electric blower motors, someone would have to sit behind the organ pumping the air through a foot treadle.

After 55 years perched in the balcony, the organ was moved in March, 1905 to the front of the church to the right of the altar. An electric blower motor was installed below the floor. But in the late 1950s, that blower room became the bathroom, and the organ wasn’t used any longer.

Here’s additional info from the Pipe Organ Database:

Originally blown by a foot treadle, at some point a pump handle was added extending from the rear of the case, and this handle was moved to the case right at the time of the 1905 move, and this pumping system was supplied with a new rope in 1930. Subsequent to this repair, an electric blower was installed in the cellar beneath the organ. In the late 1950s, the blower was removed, its location converted to a bathroom, and the organ was pushed up against the wall where it sat unused until its removal in October 2007. Except for the especially crude post-1930 installation of swell shades, a spurious bass GGG# pipe, and the blower, the organ is remarkably preserved and otherwise unaltered.

The case is of pine, exquisitely faux grained in imitation of straight-grain and burl mahogany with gold-leafed wooden dummies. The rosewood keydesk is recessed behind doors, and never had pedals. The small ebony stopknobs have ivory labels lettered in script with square shanks, and are all mounted on the right side. The metal pipes are of common metal. All pipes longer than 3′ f are of pine. The double- rise reservoir has a single diagonal feeder, and preliminary experiments indicate the pressure is likely 50 mm or less.

The original foot treadle pumping system (found in the church while the organ was being dismantled) will be restored, and the later pumping system removed.

The instrument is a remarkably well preserved example of an early and thriving upstate New York organ trade.

In 2007, the organ was given to the S.L. Huntington & Co., who have placed it on permanent loan to St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church (1838) in Westford, New York.