Historic Pipe Organ Spared by Sandy

November 16, 2012
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OCEAN GROVE – The 100-plus-year-old pipe organ, housed in the landmark Great Auditorium facing the Atlantic Ocean, was spared by Hurricane Sandy.

Although a large portion of the building’s roof was ripped away, the organ was unscathed, according to organ curator John Shaw, who inspected the Great Auditorium Pipe Organ.

The roof of the building was secured a week after the storm by three local construction companies working around the clock, thereby preventing additional damage.

“It was determined that there was no significant damage to the historic instrument as a result of Hurricane Sandy,” Shaw said.

Shaw said the organ will be “fully tested in the spring when the warmer weather returns.”

Shaw spent several hours checking the pipe organ as soon as power was restored to the seaside community. Like many affected areas, Ocean Grove was without electricity until Nov. 2, five days after the monster storm slammed into the New Jersey coast.

Shaw and Ocean Grove Auditorium Organist Gordon Turk said they received dozens of messages and inquiries right after the hurricane from performers and organ aficionados around the world. Local residents also expressed their concern that the damage would impact the instrument, which is the musical heart-and-soul of the quaint Victorian community, which was founded in 1869 as a Methodist retreat.

Built at an original cost of $27,000, the Great Auditorium Pipe Organ was inaugurated on July 3, 1908. Designed by noted English inventor Robert Hope-Jones, the organ is housed directly behind the choir loft in four concrete chambers, and weighs between 20 and 25 tons. With almost 11,500 pipes, the 189-rank organ is considered to be among the largest and finest concert instruments in the world.

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“The damage to the Auditorium was a shock,” Turk said. “It’s such a special building, for so many wonderful reasons. I’m really thankful that in the midst of all this, the organ was not damaged.”

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