George Templeton Strong Residence

55 Gramercy Park North
New York, N.Y. 10010

Organ Specifications:
III/15 Henry Erben (1840)
• Unknown Builder

George Templeton Strong (1820-1875)  
George Templeton Strong (c.1870)  
George Templeton Strong was born in New York in 1820 and came from a highly musical family. Both parents were amateur musicians, and his father was president of the New York Philharmonic Society. As a young man, Strong studied piano, oboe and viola, and occasionally played in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Strong lived to write intimately of the turbulent years leading up to and through the American Civil War, as well as the corrupt and turbulent years in New York following the war. In 1838, he graduated from Columbia College with high honors. On May 15, 1848, Strong married Ellen Ruggles (her father, Samuel Ruggles, built Gramercy Park in 1831) in Grace Church, New York. In 1853, he was elected a trustee of Columbia College.

George Templeton Strong served for many years as a vestryman at Trinity Church in New York. He helped found the United States Sanitary Commission, which helped ameliorate the horrible sufferings of wounded soldiers during the American Civil War. He was also treasurer and member of its executive committee throughout the war. He also helped to start the Union League Club of New York, an organization which pledged to "cultivate a profound national devotion." The organization provided a means to reconciling the whites and blacks of the South into the Republican Party. Strong funded a Union regiment during the war, and his wife served on a hospital ship.

Mr. Strong died on July 21, 1875. His 2,250-page diary, whose first entry was recorded on October 5, 1835, was discovered in the 1930s. Since the age of 15, Strong had written almost every day of his life for nearly 40 years. Excerpts from this diary are featured in The Civil War, Ken Burns' 1990 documentary.
  Organ Case in Katsbaan Reformed Church - Saugerties, NY
Organ in Katsbaan Reformed Church
Henry Erben
New York City (1840)
Mechanical action
3 manuals, 12 stops, 15 ranks

In 1840, George Templeton Strong commissioned Henry Erben to build a three-manual organ for his residence on Gramercy Park. Strong wrote extensively about this organ, which he called "Goliath," in his diary. Fortunately, excerpts from this diary, which Strong kept from 1835 to his death in 1875, and which exists in the New York Historical Society, have been published, including a 3-volume set of musical excerpts entitled Strong on Music, edited by Vera Brodsky Lawrence. Unfortunately, Ms. Lawrence died before finishing the task; her excerpts end in 1862, at which time the organ was still in the Strong residence on Gramercy Park.

The Katsbaan Reformed Church in Saugerties, N.Y., has an old organ that is believed to be "Goliath." Church records show that the organ was used until 1892 by the Saugerties Reformed Church, after which it was given to the Katsbaan Church. Three organ historians — Richard Hamar (who is restoring the organ), Barbara Owen, and Dana Hull — have examined this organ and reviewed interior photos and descriptions of some known early Erbens. All three historians were confident that the organ is the work of New York builder Henry Erben, and they estimated that it was built in the 1835-45 period. In addition, they feel that the organ has certain peculiarities that would suggest that it had perhaps not originally been a church organ, but a rather unusual house organ. Organ historian Stephen Pinel, who has studied Henry Erben organs, felt that none of Erben's organs in New York's Reformed churches ressembled the Katsbaan organ, but he pointed out that Erben did in fact build a house organ with many similarities.
Great Organ (Manual I) – 58 notes [GGG (no GGG#), AAA to f3]
  Open Diapason
  Stop Diapason
    Sesquialtera, 2 ranks


Choir Organ (Manual II) – 58 notes [GGG (no GGG#), AAA to f3]
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 35 notes [TG to f3], enclosed
  Open Diapason
    Cornet, 3 ranks


Pedal Organ – 18 notes [GGG to C]
    permanently coupled          
    Swell to Great    
    Choir to Great    
Pedal Movement
    Swell Pedal  
Unknown Builder

George Templeton Strong had an organ by an unknown builder, as mentioned in his diary entry on April 13, 1840:
"Went up to Erben's after dinner. If he will do so, and won't be too exhorbitant, I want him to take our organ off our hands and give us a better. Ours is well enough as far as it goes, but its range of stops is limited, and it has no Sub-bass, and what's more important, no Swell."
     Katsbaan Reformed Church (Saugerties, N.Y.) web site:
     Lawrence, Vera Brodsky. Strong on Music: The New York Music Scene in the Days of George Templeton Strong. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

     Katasbaan Reformed Church (Saugerties, N.Y.) web site. Case and keydesk of Henry Erben organ.
     Unknown author. Portrait (c.1870) of George Templeton Strong. Public domain.
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