University Place Presbyterian Church - New York City
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University Place Presbyterian Church

49 University Place at East 10th Street
New York, N.Y. 10012


Organ Specifications:
III/37 Hilborne L. Roosevelt, Op. 147 (1884)
• Henry Erben (1853)
III/~26 Henry Erben (1845)


The University Place Presbyterian Church was organized in 1845 by members of the Duane Street Presbyterian Church who wished to have a "New School" church further uptown. After subscriptions totalling nearly $60,000 were raised, land at the southeast corner of University Place and East 10th Street was leased from the managers of Sailors' Snug Harbor, an institution that owned the property bounded by Fifth Avenue and Broadway and Eighth and 10th Streets. This spot, known for many years as "Green Hill," was a favorite place of boys for coasting in the winter. Without competition, the society selected noted architect Richard Upjohn — whose Trinity Church was being erected downtown — to design their church edifice. As with Trinity Church, Upjohn's University Place Church would be constructed of brownstone in the English Gothic style, and would feature a noble spire of solid stone to the summit. Although Upjohn provided a place for a bell, one was never installed, "as a courtesy to residents in the immediate neighborhood." The interior was fitted with black walnut and provided seating for more than 1,000 persons. Construction began in March 1844, and the church was opened and dedicated on June 12, 1845. Upjohn considered this church to be one of his best pieces of work.

By 1850, the neighborhood surrounding nearby Washington Square Park was in decline as city residents continued to migrate uptown. Membership in the society dropped alarmingly, and in 1861, "not more than forty out of 200 pews were rented to responsible parties." Faced with a similar problem, the somewhat larger Mercer Street Church, an "Old School" Presbyterian society organized in 1835, merged into University Place Church on September 16, 1870. The memorable union of Old and New School assemblies was successful in terms of increased membership and financial stability. In 1874, the society erected a new $85,000 building for Emmanuel Chapel, founded in 1852 as a mission of University Place Church. Located on East 6th Street in the Eleventh Ward, the chapel was a ministry to Germans living in the tenements and at one time boasted the second-largest Sunday-school in the country.

Over the next three decades, the opening of elevated railroads and subways enabled city residents to continue their northward movement as business concerns overtook residential areas. Dwindling memberships forced downtown churches to relocate, merge with another church, or disband altogether. It was during the Great War (WWI) that, in 1918, University Place and nearby Madison Square Presbyterian churches merged into Old First Presbyterian Church on Fifth Avenue and 12th Street. At that time, Emmanuel Chapel became a church. The old University Place church was later demolished.
         

Hilborne L. Roosevelt Organ, Op. 147 (1884) in the University Place Presbyterian Church - New York City
Hilborne L. Roosevelt
New York City – Opus 147 (1884)
Tracker-pneumatic action
3 manuals, 32 stops, 37 ranks





The third organ in University Place Presbyterian Church was built in 1884 by Hilborne L. Roosevelt of New York City. Roosevelt retained the case and some pipework from the previous 1853 Henry Erben organ. Research has not yet determined if the organ was removed in 1918, when the church merged with First Presbterian, or was demolished with the building.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 58 notes
16
  Double Open Diapason
58
4
  Flute Harmonique
58
8
  Open Diapason
58
2 2/3
  Octave Quint *
58
8
  Viola di Gamba
58
2
  Super Octave *
58
8
  Doppel Flöte
58
    Mixture, 3 & 4 ranks *
196
4
  Octave
58
8
  Trumpet *
58
           
* enclosed in Choir box
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 58 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon
58
4
  Hohl Flöte
58
8
  Open Diapason
58
2
  Flageolet
58
8
  Spitz Flöte
58
    Cornet, 3 ranks
173
8
  Salicional
58
8
  Cornopean
58
8
  Stopped Diapason
58
8
  Oboe
58
4
  Gemshorn
58
       
               
Choir Organ (Manual I) – 58 notes, enclosed
8
  Geigen Principal
58
4
  Rohr Flöte
58
8
  Dolce
58
2
  Piccolo Harmonique
58
8
  Concert Flute
58
8
  Clarinet
58
               
Pedal Organ – 30 notes
16
  Open Diapason
30
10 2/3
  Quint
30
16
  Bourdon
30
8
  Violoncello
30
16
  Dulciana
30
       
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal       Swell to Great Octaves  
    Swell to Pedal       Choir to Great  
    Choir to Pedal       Swell to Choir  
    Swell to Great          
               
Mechanical Accessories
    Swell Tremulant   Eclipse Wind Indicator
    Bellows Signal    
               
Pedal Movements
    Great Forte   Great to Pedal Reversible
    Great Piano (double acting)   Balanced Swell Pedal
    Swell Forte   Balanced Choir Pedal
    Swell Piano (double acting)    
         
Henry Erben
New York City (1853)
Mechanical action


In 1853, Henry Erben rebuilt or replaced his previous organ from 1845. Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
         
Henry Erben
New York City (1845)
Mechanical action
3 manuals, 22 stops, ~26 ranks


The original organ for University Place Presbyterian Church was built in 1845 by Henry Erben of New York City. Erben provided a richly carved Gothic case of black walnut, designed by Richard Upjohn, that was 35 feet high, 18 feet wide, and 15 feet in depth. A public exhibition of the organ took place on Thursday afternoon, September 18, 1845. The New York Herald (Sep. 20, 1845) reported:
"The audience was delighted with the performances of Mr. William A. King, Organist of St. Peter's Church, Barclay Street, and Mr. Greatorex, organist of the Church of the Ascension. ... We listened to the music of this instrument, from the gentle breathing of the softest notes, in the choir and swell, to the loud roaring of the combined four organs, pealing their thunder along the vaulted arches of the church. It was magnificent, and every nerve trembled responsive to the sounds. The numerous professional gentlemen and amateurs present expressed themselves highly delighted with the instrument."
A conflicting report appeared in the New York Daily Tribune (Sep. 24, 1845) as a letter to the editor which read, in part:
"I was present as a listener at the exhibition of the Organ on Thursday afternoon, and although it was said that 'it gave great satisfaction to the professional gentlemen and amateurs who performed on it,' still I must infer that such was not the impression on the audience, from the fact that ten minutes after the playing commenced they began to retire. The general effect upon my own mind on leaving the Church was that of a hardness or harshness in the voicing of the instrument. I speak particularly of the full organ, for this was played almost constantly, and relieved by very few fancy combinations. It was regretted by the audience, I am sure, that the soft stops were not more used in playing. In regard to the full organ, the twelfth and fifteenth, and other harmonic stops, were certainly voiced too brilliantly for the diapasons upon which they rested: their only use being to qualify and enrich the whole, and not to overpower it. Shrill music is suited to the open air, and not to the narrow limits of a church. Even the diapasons lacked that mellow richness which is always so welcome to an ear attuned to sacred harmony; and the tendency was rather to grate on the feelings than to refresh and soothe them."

(The above letter was only signed "E". It may well have been written by Dr. Edward Hodges, organist of Trinity Church where a notable Erben organ would be inaugurated the following year.)
In 1849 , only a few years after it was installed, the organ was revoiced by Hall & Labagh of New York City. A letter (July 31, 1849) from Thomas Hall to Dr. Potts (pastor of the church) proposed that the organ be revoiced, regulated and tuned ($120); a Dulciana stop added to the Swell ($65); a soft pedal stop (Double Dulciana from CCC two octaves) be added ($250), or for the same effect and at less cost, seven notes from CC to F[#] be added in continuation of the Choir organ Dulciana ($120). From the last item we can conclude that the organ had a "G" compass.

The following specification is from the Hall & Labagh Correspondence Ledgers (p.101):
               
Great Organ
8
  Open Diapason  
3
  Twelfth  
8
  Stopd Bass  
2
  Fifteenth  
8
  Stopd Treble       Sesquialtera [3 ranks?]  
4
  Principal  
8
  Trumpet Treble  
4
  NIght Horn  
8
  Trumpet Bass  
             
Choir Organ
8
  Dulciana  
4
  Flute  
8
  Stopd Treble  
2
  Fifteenth  
8
  Stopd Bass  
8
  Cremona [TC]  
4
  Principal          
               
Swell Organ
16
  Double Stopd Diapason       Cornet [3 ranks?]  
8
  Open Diapason  
8
  Trumpet  
8
  Stopd Diapason  
8
  Hautboy  
4
  Principal          
               
Pedal Organ – "two octaves"
16
  Double Open Diapason
25
       
               
Couplers
    Choir & Swell Unison       Pedal & Choir  
    Choir & Swell Octaves       Pedal & Great Organ  
    Great & Choir Unison          
           
Sources:
     Dunlap, David W. From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
     Glück, Sebastian. Specifications of Hilborne L. Roosevelt Organ, Op. 147 (1884).
     Hall & Labagh Correspondence Ledgers. American Organ Archives, Organ Historical Society, Princeton, N.J. Specifications of Henry Erben organ (1845). Courtesy Jonathan Bowen.
     "Hilborne L. Roosevelt, Manufacturer of Church, Chapel, Concert and Chamber Organs," catalog pub. by Roosevelt Organ Works (Dec. 1888); republished by The Organ Literature Foundation (Braintree, Mass., 1978). Courtesy Sand Lawn and David Scribner.
     "The Large Organ," New York Daily Tribune (Sep. 20, 1845):3.
     "Mr. Editor," New York Daily Tribune (Sep. 24, 1845):2.
     Nelson, George. Organs in the United States and Canada Database. Seattle, Wash.
     "Organ in Dr. Potts' Church," New York Herald (Sep. 20, 1845):2.
     "Rev. Dr. Booth's Church," The New York Times (Mar. 1, 1875).
     Services Commemorative of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the University Place Presbyterian Church, New York, Novermber 24-28, 1895. (New York: University Place Presbyterian Church, 1895).

Illustrations:
     Services Commemorative of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the University Place Presbyterian Church, New York, Novermber 24-28, 1895. Exterior; interior showing Hilborne L. Roosevelt Organ, Op. 147 (1884).