Orpheum Theatre’s 90-year-old organ shipped to Chicago for resto - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Orpheum Theatre’s 90-year-old organ shipped to Chicago for restoration

Built in 1928, the instrument was purchased to play for shows and silent films and most recently enjoyed at the theatre's summer movie series. (Source: WMC Action News 5) Built in 1928, the instrument was purchased to play for shows and silent films and most recently enjoyed at the theatre's summer movie series. (Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

In celebration of the 90th birthday of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, the Orpheum Theatre is restoring its crown jewel.

The historic organ built just for Orpheum Theatre has been shipped to Chicago to undergo a $500,000 restoration.

Built in 1928, the instrument was purchased to play for shows and silent films and most recently enjoyed at the theatre's summer movie series.

“This is a colossal piece of musical machinery,” said Jeff Weiler, President of JL Weiler, Inc.

The restoration will be completed by JL Weiler, Inc. and shipped by truck eight hours from the Windy City.

“We dismantle everything very carefully, we document everything, we inventory everything, and then everything is returned to our workshop in Chicago,” Weiler said.

It's a labor-intensive process. The organ weighs approximately 23,000 pounds.

The Orpheum pit, the home of the console, is now empty.

WMC5 went behind the scenes as moving crews loaded up thousands of pieces including pipes, gaskets, and the engine.

We’re told that this organ is one of a dozen that remains in the world in its original location. That's why during transport, each piece is treated with supreme delicacy.

“In approximately 16 months, we will have turned back the hands of time,” Weiler said.

The total restoration cost is more than half a million dollars.

“We are taking some from our reserves, we received a lead gift from the Plough Foundation, we are very grateful to them for that, and then we've been appealing to the public,” said Brett Batterson, President and CEO of the Orpheum Theatre Group.

Batterson hopes the organ revival will attract a new generation of musicians.

“Trying to create a program where young people can learn to play an organ because one of the issues is the number of people who can play an organ like this is shrinking,” Batterson said. “We are preserving the history. We feel history that is not preserved is history that is forgotten.”

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