During the mid 1970's, the Atlanta Fox Theater and everything in it faced oblivion. At that time fortunately, the residents of the city began a campaign to “Save The Fox.” Many months of negotiations, fundraising, co-operation and compromise paid off for the theater and the city. The “Fabulous Fox” is now a national landmark undergoing professional, restorative care and is one of only a very few self-sustaining theaters in the country.

Thirty-three years later, this same spirit finds a home at another venerable institution, the Trinity United Methodist Church in downtown Atlanta . Established in 1854, the current large edifice and equally impressive Austin pipe organ, opus #362, built in 1912, has served faithfully since then and is the oldest, fully functioning instrument in Atlanta.

In keeping with its generous size of 40 ranks, it possesses a large facade of 31 non-speaking pipes all of which are about 22 feet in length and 9 to 10 inches in scale. Above and behind the full length pipes, 32 canisters or “cans” as they are affectionately known, complete the illusion of additional pipes.

In the fellowship hall located behind the sanctuary reside 28 shorter and smaller scale non-speaking pipes. An unusual feature of the organ allows only the Swell division (controlled by a remotely placed, two manual “slave console”) to speak into the fellowship hall. Additionally, this unique instrument, voiced under the influences of Robert Hope-Jones is orchestral in nature; the only one of its kind in Atlanta .

96 years of atmospheric and seasonal climate changes, expansion and contraction of the natural wood bracing material began to take its toll in the sanctuary facade. Scallop boards and their supports began separating from the masonry, allowing the large facade pipes to pull away from the wall into the organ. Upon seeing this horrifying sight and to prevent a potential disaster from occurring, the curator of the organ, Mr. Kevin Cartwright, immediately set about assembling a team of volunteers to remove to a safe place (a large balcony at the rear of the church) all 31 of the facade pipes plus the 32 “cans.” Unfortunately, however, while resting on the sanctuary floor, waiting placement in the balcony, ten pipes sustained severe damage when several unknowing little feet trampled upon them.

While removing the fellowship hall facade pipes, we uncovered protected sections of pipes that had retained their original finish. Restoring the original color was of particular concern to the board of trustees. We were pleased to have made the discovery.

Part one of the projects involved installing steel I-beam rails and 90 degree plates firmly bolted and cemented into the masonry to support the strengthened scallop boards of the sanctuary facade prior to installation of the pipes and cans. Part two involved stripping, cleaning and repairing or replacing the pipework prior to applications of color coats and sealer, restoring them to their original finish.

During the life of the church, the imposing facade played an important role attracting couples wishing to have their marriage ceremony performed in the sanctuary. No matter where anyone in the marriage party stood, part of the facade was behind them. The tradition and organ, each worthy of preservation, continues with the completion of the work in March 2009.

Michael Proscia Organbuilder, Inc., Bowdon , GA. , is pleased to have completed this and other restorative work, including a 61 note Skinner Harp.

 

 

 

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