Holtkamp Pipe Organ Needs New Home
This Site Updated January 2018

 

 

All but six of the show pipes are Open Diapason—the six are fillers

Fascinating History But Considerably Modernized

CONTACT: David Osburn  email: drdhojr@mindspring.com

Holtkamp Organ Opus #1617

1942    St. Vincent de Paul's Church           Cleveland

This ventil chest organ was built originally by Votteler-Holtkamp-Sparling and probably was a tubular pneumatic. One of the installers signed his name and date on the air channel feeding the ventils on Nov 25, 1913—see below for image.

The 1942 date appears to be when Holtkamp converted it from tubular but in doing so, they built virtually an all new electro-pneumatic organ using the original swell and great chests. It is possible that the original location for the installation was Easton, PA, documented below. I purchased the organ in 1973 from a seller who said that it had been dismantled and crated by Holtkamp from its St. Vincent dePaul location apparently to be moved to a church in Lorain, Ohio and that was the condition in which he acquired it. He had never done anything with it and sold it to me with crates still packed with pipes. The pipe crates for packing and shipping remain.

In 1974 I rebuilt all of the secondary pneumatics in both swell and great chests (b&w picture below shows some of them lined up for re-installation) and it was in perfect playing condition. I used hot hide glue because I love it and it is so easy to work with.

It still has the original repulsion-start Votteler motor and an all wood blower, not to mention the original 12vdc power supply from 1942 with chokes and selenium rectifiers but still works perfectly.

The console has been refinished and the roll top desk style cover is in excellent condition.

It is important to say that the probable owner for this organ would be an organ enthusiast with some good “handyman” skills and a full understanding of how an electro-pneumatic organ functions. It is not all that complicated but a little knowledge goes a long way. It has everything necessary to get it back in playing condition and the fact that approximately 600 wires that normally would require individual connections from CONSOLE to ORGAN are now handled with ten 60-pin CONNECTORS makes reassembly much easier.

 

 

This electro-pneumatic organ has two ventil chests for Swell and Great and three separate electro-pneumatic chests to handle the 12 16ft stopped Pedal sub-bass, the Open Diapason show pipes, and the borrowing of the Great Melodia and Diapason by the pedal.

 

It is perfect for an organ enthusiast because everything is ready to put back together but I would not recommend it for a church unless one or two really interested enthusiasts can be assembled to dig into it.

 

I played it regularly for 43 years after I rebuilt all of the Secondary Pneumatics in the Great and Swell chests in rubberized nylon cloth and the Primaries in each chest, while still leather, are in excellent condition.

 

Although it had no playing flaws when dissasembled the three other chests with primaries and secondaries for each pipe may need some work but they are easily hefted to be worked on before being installed.

 

What is fascinating for the DIY enthusiast is that while the console connects to relay/coupler board (which then connects to the chest magnets) all 600 wires are in a cable that connects to the console with TEN individual 60 PIN connectors.  In other words, the entire organ proper can be unplugged from the console with no need for soldering or anything else and the cable is about 25-35 feet long.

 

Another fascination is the blower and motor. It ain’t new!  I think it dates to 1913 and the plate on the motor shows the name of what the predecessor to The Holtkamp Organ Company was-- Votteler-Holtkamp-Sparling.  The motor is a 240V repulsion start monster and the blower is all wood and to deaden the sound somewhat. the whole motor-blower package is contained in a wood enclosure covered on the outside with one eighth inch sheet lead.

 

I think it was originally tubular pneumatic and the 1942 date appears to be when Holtkamp converted it but in doing so, they built virtually an all new electro-pneumatic organ using the original swell and great chests. It is possible that the original location for the installation was Easton, PA, documented below. I purchased the organ in 1973 from a seller who said that it had been dismantled and crated by Holtkamp from its St. Vincent dePaul location apparently to be moved to a church in Lorain, Ohio and that was the condition in which he acquired it. He had never done anything with it and sold it to me with crates still packed with pipes. The pipe crates for packing and shipping remain.

 

The console has been refinished and the roll top desk style cover is in excellent condition. I seem to recall installing new backing jute about 35 years ago.

 

The stop list is as follows:

 

GREAT

8ft Open Diapason (metal)

            13 in separate chest so they can be played only by pedal

            31 in Great Chest

            17 in separate chest of golden show pipes

8ft Melodia (open flute) some in same separate chest behind show pipes

8ft Dulciana (metal—I reset the pipes and used it as a Dulce Quint)

SW to GT 16ft

SW to GT

SW to GT 4ft

 

SWELL

4ft Principal (metal) all 61 on swell chest

4ft Gedackt (wood) all 61 on swell chest

8ft Salicional (metal) all 61 on swell chest

Sesqui Altera (12th and 17th wood and metal) all 122 on swell chest

 

PEDAL (just 30 pedals)

16ft SUB BASS (12 stopped wood in separate chest)

BALANCE these borrowed from Great Melodia

8ft OCTAVE (entirely borrowed from Great)

SW to PED

GT to PED

GT to PED 4ft

 

The bench shown above is valuable in its own right. It is 100% walnut and built especially for Walter Blodgett, the long time curator of music at the Cleveland Museum of Art and a similar long tenure and recital life at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights.

 

Obviously, it is not a theatre organ even if this audio file example of its capabilities seems to say otherwise.  But this version of Satin Doll does show off the Sesqui Altera stop nicely.

 

Improvisation on Satin Doll

More traditional is this full organ version of Bringing In The Sheaves

Bringing In The Sheaves (2 verses)

 

This shows how I rebuilt the Great chest secondary pneumatics. I recall that it was nylon sheeting rubberized cloth but it might not have been nylon. I debated using a plastic glue but I tested and retested using hide glue and it grabbed the weave beautifully and these little bellows have worked perfectly for 40 years. Did the same with the swell chest.

 

All were reglued with thick paper spacers for easy removal and repair.

IMPORTANT ALTERNATIVE REBUILD

There is plenty of room in the chests for all of the leather pneumatics to be eliminated and “direct action” or electro-mechanical pipe magnets used for each pipe. I think it is probable that an intermediary relay would be needed because the key contacts might not be able to handle all of the load when a key is playing its ordinary 8ft pipe plus 4ft and 16ft coupled pipes but this kind of action is very common on modern organs and eliminates all concerns about any deterioration of the leathers.

Here is one direct magnet unit closed:

And open with air entering pipe at arrow:

The premier choice for organ parts is www.organsupply.com

Here is one of their direct pallet magnets shown upside down

Repeating  that all of the connections (about 600 wires) from console to organ coupler and junction boards can be UNPLUGGED. There are ten 60 pin connectors and while the wires on the fixed female sections of the connectors are cotton wrapped, they are each soldered to these interesting connectors. The wires soldered to the male (detachable) sections of the connectors are all modern “hookup wire” as seen. This makes short work of a major re-installing problem! (I moved it and reinstalled it once with great respect for my wisdom in all those hours of soldering connectors!!!)

Wires below are a little bunched up because the console here is only 20 feet from the relay board and it can be as much as 40 feet or more with the existing 600 wire cabling.

 

Coupler board annotated

 

 

 

 

 

Swell tabs below--replacement tabs easily available.

Five presets were added shown with pedal image below and electro-magnets were installed on the stop tabs so they move, as usual, when a preset is selected. There is a “Full organ” pedal switch seen to the right of the swell/crescendo pedals below.  Just 30 pedals. Swell Pedal disabled but Crescendo pedal operates. No swell shades are available but the pneumatic swell motor is preserved.  The panel just below the keyboard (behind the word “keyboards” folds down to reveal manual switches to set the five presets.

Below is the top panel folded out and down. The five available presets are shown below. The switches are grouped same as the stop tabs and there is an indicator light to show which row is activated.

 

The pipes to the left are the top portion of the open diapason. Immediately to the right are the Dulciana pipes that were re-set to make a Dulce Quint but all 61 remain. Then come the top section of the open Melodia.  The well lit pipes you see are the Swell Gedackt. The 4ft Swell Principal is partly visible along with the Salicional but the Sesqui Altera is not visible.

 

 

 

Below shows more clearly how the organ sets up behind the show pipes.

Here is the Nov 25, 1913 installer signature.  It appears to be the name H. Haas. But fear not—it is really a lot newer than that as described herein.

Below shows probable 1913 location from the Holtkamp Opus Chart as First Reformation Church in Easton where it is shown as 7 ranks, 2 manuals which closely matches the organ Holtkamp converted to electro pneumatic for St. Vincent dePaul in 1942.

 

 

 

This is one image from the underside

Showing air channel from reservoir to underside of chests but build your own depending on distance of blower from chests.

This installation required a ceiling height of about 10 feet. The lowest (C) of the 12 SubBass pedal pipes is 9.5 feet with its foot and the tallest show pipe is 9 feet plus another foot for the chest. The Swell and Great Chests were supported at each end by a stack of three standard cement blocks. That allowed plenty of room to slide around on one’s back under the two chests to get things connected and to do any repairs but a person’s age is a distinct factor when sliding around in constricted spaces. At one age it is easy. At a later age, it is “I can’t do this anymore.”

 

Luckily for me, I first put this organ back together when I was 31 and I moved it and did it again when I was 36 (greatly assisted by the ability to connect all but a dozen or so wires from the actual organ to the console with PLUG-IN connectors!!!)

 

This is just another helpful picture showing the soundproofing I built for the blower motor and how it connects to the main bellows. Interestingly, there is additional soundproofing that goes back to 1913, I think, because the entire box in which the repulsion start motor and blower are housed is wrapped in one eighth inch Sheet Lead!!!

Gotta Love This Fascinating Organ!!!!!!!!!

 

 

When we had to cut a cable, we tried to use yellow 3M tape to number each wire so they could be matched up and reconnected easily:

 

Here are some of the SubBass 12—the chest on floor is for the show pipes

Blower motor and all wood blower dating from 1913. Works perfectly

 

 

Below are the chests in storage as labeled                                                             

Below is chest magnets/primary pneumatics removed and placed above showing good condition.

The four chest magnet.primary sections remain wired to the main relay board for further ease of installation—only problem is it takes four people to move it. Two to carry the relay board and one each to carr two chest magnet sections clamped temporarily together.

 

Below are the chest magnet sections in storage

Below are the secondary pneumatics in one section of the Great Chest.  In the organ’s original configuration, nothing was borrowed so all of the Great pipes were located on the Great Chest. When rebuilt by Holtkamp, many of the Melodia and Open Diapaisons had to be in separate chests to be borrowed and played separately by the pedal so the covered holes show the ones that are now in separate chests. Only the 8ft Dulciana is entirely located on the Great Chest and those are the Secondary pneumatics you see, all rebuilt by me in 1974-75.

 

Below are smaller pipes placed in containers for storage or shipment and separated by bubble wrap. The 13 pipe special chest is also visible for the extra Open Diapasons not part of the show pipes that are played both on the Great keyboard and the Pedal keyboard.

 

The SubBass Chest for 12 tall pipes is on top of the larger 3 SubBass pipes

You can also see the tiny foot on the largest (bottom) pipe

It was cut down so the pipe would fit

These are all in storage now

Below shows some of the Sub-Bass stopped woods and the show pipes plus two Dulciana on the right—in storage.

Below are some of the larger pipes in crates—Dulciana is in foreground

 

THE END