First Church of Christ Scientist
The Hutchings-Votey Organ
Year of commission (restoration) 1997
St. Louis is rich in turn of the century church architecture. First Church of Christ, Scientist, Saint Louis, is one of those important structures, having been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and designated a City Landmark several years earlier. Designed by the noted Saint Louis architectural firm of Mauran, Russell and Garden, it is part of a complex of impressive institutional buildings comprising the Central West End's Holy Corners Historic District.
Church of Christ, Scientist was organized in March 1894. The congregations’ original building, located in the 2800 block of pine Street, was dedicated on November 10, 1895. Within six years the number of congregants had outgrown its seating capacity of 400, and larger building became necessary. The site of the present church was purchased, and, although it was the year before the opening of the great world's Fair in saint Louis and the cost of building materials was high, the membership decided to proceed with construction because they desired a suitable church home in which to receive their World's Fair visitors. In September 1903, ground was broken and building began, with the cornerstone being laid in November. On June 5, 1904, the building had progressed far enough for the congregation to occupy the Sunday School room where services were held until July l0, l904, when the auditorium was occupied. The building was not deemed complete, however, until the installation of the Hutchings-Votey pipe organ in January 1905. A recital of organ masterworks was presented on January 20 to inaugurate the new instrument.
Renowned American organ builders, George S. Hutchings (1835-1913) of Boston and Edwin S. Vote (1856-193l) - partner in the Farrand & Votey 0rgan Company of Detroit, joined forces in l90l to form the Hutchings-Votey Organ Company, located in Boston, with Hutchings as president. Notably Ernest M. Skinner (1866-1950), the innovative and future standard-bearer in American organ building, had worked for Hutchings in a variety of capacities during the decade leading up to the formation of the Hutchings-Vote Company, and he became vice-president of the new firm. Although he resigned shortly thereafter to form his own business, the impact of Skinner's mechanical and tonal designs on Hutchings was significant.
Hutchings-Votey Organ Company brought together the talents of some of the best organ builders in America at the turn of the century. The 1904 instrument, opus 1557, for First Church of Christ, Scientist in Saint Louis had 3 manuals with 35 stops (37 ranks, comprising 2,200 pipes) and was touted as "one of the largest and best in the city" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 23, 1905). With only a minor restoration being effected by the Kilgen 0rgan Company of Saint Louis in the late l940s, the organ remained intact since its installation. After ninety-two years of service, however, the playing mechanism became unreliable.
In l997, the church membership voted to have the instrument rebuilt, utilizing almost all of the original pipework with a few judicious additions and completely new mechanical components. Now comprised of 3 manuals, 52 stops (41 ranks) and 2,474 pipes, the organ stands as a tonal model of early twentieth-century America organ building in a grand, acoustically ambient auditorium. The rebuilding was undertaken by the Martin Ott Pipe 0rgan Company of Saint Louis, Missouri, and Organ Supply industries of Erie, Pennsylvania, under the supervision of Martin Ott, with Dr. John R. Near, Principia College organist, and the late Lawrence I. Phelps, a prominent American organ builder based in Boston, Massachusetts, as consultant.
(Source: Article courtesy of Dr. John R. Near ©.
52 stops | 41 ranks
3 manuals with slider chest action |
Noted below: Martin Ott's 1997 additions