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Vacation 2004, Day 13
Monday, November 8th
New York/Philadelphia/New York

Today, probably the second highlight of the trip for me, (the first being the QM2 of course), was a trip to Philadelphia to see what is currently the worlds largest playable pipe organ, the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in the Lord and Taylor store. I will provide a very brief history (it is long and complicated but I will keep it simple) and some specifications on the organ below.

The day started out with a trip to Penn Station for the 9:00 Acella express train to Philadelphia. The train arrived on time 70 minutes later at the 30th street station. I had done some internet research and found that I could walk to the store easily, which I did. The organ is played twice each day six days a week once at 12:00 Noon and again at 5:15 PM for 45 minutes. I arrived with lots of time to spare and took many of the pictures below. After the concert by an unnamed organist listeners were invited to see the organ and I did this as well. There are some interesting pictures as a result of this which you will see below. After this I spent some additional time taking more pictures and then slowly worked my way pack to the Amtrak station with much time to spare before the 5:00 train back to New York. I will continue with the New York section after the Philadelphia pictures.

Here are some history and facts about the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ.
It was originally built in 1904 for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St Louis. It was the biggest organ of its time with 140 stops and 10,059 pipes. There were all kinds of financial problems and the organ was stored after the Exposition then put up for sale. John Wanamaker owned several department stores and he felt that music was an integral part of the experience of buying goods and was looking for a way to provide it. In 1909 he discovered that this important organ was available, bought it and installed it in his new main store. It was played in the store, where it is now, for the first time on June 22, 1911. Wanamaker, and later his son Rodman, expanded the organ greatly and got up to its current size. Its current size is over 400 stops with 28,414 pipes. A large pipe organ is a complicated machine/instrument and requires constant maintence. After the depression, as with many things, its maintenance was reduced. This reduction continued gradually over many years to almost nothing. By the late 1980's the organ became almost unplayable. Since then much work has been done to repair/rebuild all the problem areas (most of the organ) and it is now almost complete. The organ people give much of this credit to Lord and Taylor for providing support and funding to this end. It should be noted that this is an extremely condensed version of the organs history. For more detail you can go to www which is run by the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ group.

Here are the pictures taken in and of Lord and Taylor in Philadelphia.

The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ. If you look through the black scrim you can see the wall behind which most of the pipes are located. The scrim is used for a Christmas presentation that presented each year that involves the organ. A slightly different view showing the organ with the console in the lower left corner. The console is on the second floor of the store. This entire area is the Grand Court. It is eight stories high.
To give you some idea of the size of the organs console here you can see the organist seated at it. This was taken from the opposite side of the Grand Court. Here a slightly closer view, still from across the Grand Court, of the console without the organist.
After each daily concert people are invited to come and take a closer look at the organs console. It has six manuals and over 400 stop tablets.
Here is the other side. The buttons under the keyboard are programmable with different stop combinations (sometimes called presets) for quick changes. This is why it is called a combination action.
Here is a close up of the right side stop tablets. They are all set off here. When in use the ones that are set on are tipped down. The different colours define which division or section of the organ the stop belongs to. The pedal board. The ones that look like auto accelerator pedals are usually used to control the volume. Some pipes are enclosed in boxes with movable louvers. These pedals move those louvers. The round pedals are part of the combination (preset) system. The others play the bass notes of the organ.
Here is the inside of the right side curved stop sections . Much of the actions use vacuum to activate the pipes in the loft. That is what the metal pipes are for. In the right side of the picture you can see some boxes a various angles. These are the back ends of five of the six manuals. Here is a closer view of the vacuum system. Each row of stop tablets has a vacuum pipe. I won't even attempt to explain how this works.
Here is a wider view on the inside of the cabinet. It is possible to walk across the back of the cabinet to the other side to work on equipment there. I think there is a door on the other side as well but I am not sure. Many thanks to the unnamed organ technician who allowed me to look inside. Here is the organ console in its enclosure located in the womens coat section of the Lord and Taylor store. The console is a bit less than a metre above the stores floor to allow for the vacuum piping and wiring necessary between it and the pipe loft some thirty or so metres and as many as five floors up to the left of this picture. There are also some pipes on the seventh floor to the right side as well.
This picture provides a view of the main floor of the store, with the organs console on the second floor on the left and the lower sections of the pipe lofts to the right of centre. The console about the way it looks if you were just standing there looking at it.
Here is the main floor of the store from the second floor of the Grand Court. The Wanamaker Eagle. This apparently has some fairly major historical importance but I don't know what it is.
Here is the organ from the ground or first floor with the eagle listening to it. From just about under the organ looking the other direction. There are some pipes of the organ way up in the arched section at the very top of the picture.
The ceiling of the Grand Court from the same spot as the previous image.
The organs console from the ground floor.
The dedication plaque. The date was December Thirteenth 1911. Apparently 35,000 people attended this event. The historic landmark designation plaque for the building.
Outside of the Lord and Taylor on the 13th and Market Street corner. The other side of the store with the back of Philadelphia City Hall on the right.

Here are some pictures as I headed back towards the 30th Street Amtrak Station.

Market Street looking towards City Hall.
Beside city hall.
A fountain with love.
Philadelphia City Hall on City Hall Square.
A Millennium project.
The plaque from the previous picture.
Looking back towards City Hall Square from the bridge. The 30th street Amtrak station with a new building that Amtrak will have offices in.
The waiting area in the Amtrak Station.
The Acella Express that I took back to NYC.

The train arrived back in New York at approximately 6:45 PM and I headed back towards the hotel. After all I had to be back at Penn Station at 6:00 AM tomorrow for the trip home. As you will see below I took a somewhat indirect route. Here are a series of nighttime views of some of the places you have already seen.

After leaving Penn Station and walking up Seventh Ave towards Time Square I saw this. This is at 33rd Street.
A block further up at 34th street it looked like this.
A slightly blurry close up from 34th street.
An even closer shot.
This is that Toys R Us store in Times Square that was shown in daylight in yesterdays pictures. Also ABCs studios with the screen with the person on it.
The famous tower at the south end of Time Square.
The NASDAQ wall in Times Square.
The north end of Time Square from the south end.
A different view of the south end building with NASDAQ to the left.
Another view of the area around Times Square.
A different angle of the Empire State Building. This one is from Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) and West 43rd. Taken at 7:39 PM.
A closer view from the same location.
The GE Building from the same spot as the previous pictures looking the other direction. A nighttime version of the GE Building from Fifth Avenue. This is more like the NBC Nightly News version than the one yesterday.
I doubt I need to tell you what this is!!!
Same thing from across the street.
A vehicle less version of the same place.
Radio City Music Hall with the GE Building in the background.

This concludes the New York City portion of the trip. Tomorrow the trip home to Brantford.

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Originally Created: May 6/7, 2005
Last Updated: May 16, 2005