Town Hall - New York City (1933 Postcard)
 
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Town Hall

123 West 43rd Street
New York, N.Y. 10036
http://www.the-townhall-nyc.org
           
Town Hall was built between 1919-21 as designed by Teunis J. van der Bent of McKim, Mead & White. The League for Political Education, who were energetic suffragists campaigning for the 19th Amendment (women's right to vote), created a meeting hall which would serve as forum for its members, and as a venue for educating the public on important issues of the times. The Colonial Revival-style auditorium democratically eliminated box seats, and there were no columns to obstruct sight lines, giving birth to the phrase, "Not a bad seat in the house." The 19th Amendment was passed during completion of the building, which opened on January 12, 1921. Almost immediately after its opening, the hall was in demand for concerts and theatrical events. Lectures and speaking engagements were given by prominent figures of the times, including Theodore Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington, Margaret Sanger, Buckminster Fuller, Winston Churchill, and Woodrow Wilson. Town Hall is also known for the American Town Meetings of the Air radio program broadcast during the 30s, 40s and 50s; the many historic lectures and debates; and innumerable memorable performances by classical, jazz and popular artists. The Town Hall Endowment Series featured artists including Sergei Rachmaninoff, Ignace Paderwaski, Lily Pons, Fedor Chaliapin, Yehudi Menuhin, and more. The hall's superb acoustics attracted many artists to make their New York debut on its stage, including Marian Anderson, contralto, who made her New York debut here on December 30, 1935, after being denied an operatic career elsewhere because of discrimination against African-Americans.

In 1987, Town Hall was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Comission, and in 2012 was added to the list of National Historic Landmarks.
 
Skinner Organ, Op. 434 (1923) in Town Hall - New York City (photo: The American Organist, May 1924)
Skinner Organ Co.
Boston, Mass. – Opus 434 (1923); rev. (1935)
Electro-pneumatic action
4 manuals, 49 stops, 46 ranks








Organist Lynnwood Farnam at Skinner Organ, Op. 434 (1923) in Town Hall - New York City (photo: Organ Historical Society)  
Lynnwood Farnam at Town Hall  
The organ in Town Hall was built in 1923 by the Skinner Organ Co., of Boston. An article in The New York Times (Dec. 29, 1922) announced that "James Speyer had donated an organ as a memorial to Mrs. Ellin Speyer, his wife. According to Arthur Hudson Marks, President of the firm which will build and install the $35,000 organ, it will be among the finest in the country."

The organ was to contain 2,913 pipes, have four keyboards with complete mechanical equipment for recitals. "In addition to the traditional organ tone, Mr. Speyer's gift will have many of the voices of an orchestra, such as the bassoon, oboe, tuba, harp, flute and French horn."

In 1935, Ernest Skinner's organ in Town Hall was completely overhauled by the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company (Op. J-5364), under the direction of G. Donald Harrison. By the late 1950s the organ was rarely used; in 1960 it was acquired by the Takoma Park Seventh-day Adventist Church, Takoma Park, Md., where it was moved and installed by Lewis & Hitchcock, Inc., of Washington, D.C.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes
16
  Violone
61
4
  Flute
61
8
  Diapason
61
2
  Fifteenth
61
8
  Claribel Flute (wood)
61
  Mixture IV ranks * [12-15-17-19]
244
8
  Chimney Flute
61
   
Chimes [in Solo box]
25 tubes
4
  Octave
61
   
* originally 3 ranks

 

     

 

     
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon
73
2
  Fifteenth [added 1935]
61
8
  Diapason
73
    Mixture III ranks [12-15-19]
183
8
  Gamba
73
16
  Fagotto
73
8
  Salicional
73
8
  Trumpet
73
8
  Voix Celeste [TC]
61
8
  Corno d'Amore
73
8
  Gedeckt
73
8
  Vox Humana
73
8
  Flute Celeste II ranks
134
4
  Clarion
73
4
  Flute
73
    Tremolo  
4
  Octave [orig. Violin]
73
       
               
Choir Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Concert Flute (wood)
73
1 3/5
  Tierce
61
8
  Gamba
73
8
  Corno di Bassetto
73
4
  Flute [harmonic]
73
  Tremolo
2 2/3
  Nazard
61
(8)
  Harp [TC, from Celesta]
2
  Piccolo
61
(4)
 
Celesta
61 bars
               
Solo Organ (Manual IV) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Cello
73
8
  Tuba [15" w.p.]
73
8
  Gamba Celeste
73
8
  French Horn
73
4
  Orchestral Flute
73
8
  English Horn
73
            Tremolo  
               
Pedal Organ – 32 notes
32
  Resultant [added 1935]
8
  Still Gedeckt
SW
16
  Subbass (wood)
44
4
  Flute [Bourdon]
16
  Violone
GT
  Mixture [wired; removed 1935]
16
  Bourdon (wood)
56
16
  Trombone [bass of wood]
44
16
  Echo Lieblich
SW
16
  Fagotto
SW
8
  Octave [Subbass]
8
  Tromba [from 16']
8
  Gedeckt [Bourdon]
   
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal 8   Swell to Choir 16, 8, 4
    Swell to Pedal 8, 4   Solo to Choir 8
    Choir to Pedal 8   Great to Solo 8
    Solo to Pedal 8, 4   Swell to Swell 16, 4
    Swell to Great 16, 8, 4   Choir to Choir 16, 4
    Choir to Great 16, 8   Solo to Solo 16, 4
    Solo to Great 16, 8, 4    
               
Adjustable Combinations
   
Solo Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4 (thumb) Man./Ped Combs. On & Off
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (thumb) Man./Ped Combs. On & Off
Great Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5 (thumb) Man./Ped Combs. On & Off
Choir Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5 (thumb) Man./Ped Combs. On & Off
Pedal Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4-5-6 (toe)  
Couplers Pistons 1-2-3 (thumb)  
Entire Organ Pistons 1-2-3 (thumb & toe)  
  General Cancel (thumb)  
  Set (thumb)  
               
Reversibles
    Solo to Pedal (thumb)   Choir to Pedal (thumb)
    Swell to Pedal (thumb)   Sforzando (toe)
    Great to Pedal (thumb & toe)   All Swells to Swell (toe)
               
Expression
    Balanced Choir Expression Pedal      
    Balanced Swell Expression Pedal      
    Balanced Solo Expression Pedal      
    Crescendo Pedal      
           
Sources:
     Aeolian-Skinner Archives web site: http://aeolianskinner.organsociety.org/Specs/Op00434.html
     Dolkart, Andrew S. and Matthew A. Postal. Guide to New York City Landmarks (Third Edition). New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004.
     Holden, Dorothy. The Life and Work of Ernest M. Skinner. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1987.
     Kinzey, Allen, and Sand Lawn, comps. E.M. Skinner/Aeolian-Skinner Opus List. New Rev. Ed. Richmond: The Organ Historical Society, 1997.
     "Organ for Town Hall," The New York Times (Dec. 29, 1922).
     Tikker, Timothy. Electronic correspondence (Oct. 22, 2013) regarding disposition and specification of Skinner Organ Co. organ, Op. 434 (1923).
     "Town Hall Named National Historic Landmark," The New York Times (Mar. 28, 2012).

Illustrations:
     eBay.com. Postcard (1933) of exterior.
     Lynnwood Farnam at console: "Stop, Open and Reed – a Periodical Presentation of Pipe Organ Progress". Boston: Skinner Organ Company, 1922-1927.
     Town Hall interior with organ console on stage: The American Organist (May 1924). Courtesy Jonathan Bowen.