Friends of the Exposition Organ is a citizen’s group determined to bring this musical treasure back to public use and enjoyment. As stewards of this gift from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, we organized to safeguard the instrument from neglect and destruction and keep the wishes of the original patrons alive.
So where might the Exposition Organ be enjoyed?
The near fully-restored Exposition Organ is a 40-ton instrument with an 800+ square foot footprint. It’s sonic field needs a room with several million cubic feet of space as its soundboard. Finding a suitable location large enough and accessible for public enjoyment is a big challenge. Friends of the Exposition Organ continues to keep the flame alive and will someday find a home for this great instrument. Please see the list below of locations we have explored and considered to-date but for one reason or another were not suitable or available for this endeavor.
A proposed Panama-Pacific International Exposition museum has been tossed around for many years, why not have this ultimate P.P.I.E. treasure as the centerpiece of such a museum? The Exposition Organ would certainly generate additional interest in the P.P.I.E. museum and attract numerous tourists and local visitors to such a museum.
Formerly proposed sites:
Palace of Fine Arts – Gallery Building
One obvious idea is uniting the Exposition Organ with the last remaining building from the P.P.I.E.—The Palace of Fine Arts ‘Gallery Building.’ This immense space was formerly occupied by The Exploratorium and is now temporarily occupied by iHangar. The building’s cavernous open space with millions of cubic feet of acoustic delight, along with its historic connection, make this an obvious location. The City is working with an advisory group to devise a plan for the ultimate tenant for the building. It is our hope that the future tenant will include the Exposition Organ as part of the final plan.
The Armory Community Center
The Drill Court is home of The Armory Community Center. It is reputed to be the largest unsupported enclosed volume in San Francisco. Renovations to the Drill Court completed in the summer of 2013 included an all new maple wood floor, paint, acoustical work, new windows with blackouts, and power upgrades. The venue will be used for event producers. Friends of the Exposition Organ feels this is a perfect space for the instrument as it is large, The Armory Community Center needs a distinctive musical attraction to set it apart from other event spaces. The organ would become a beautiful visual focal point in the room and would stay within San Francisco city limits.
Kaiser Convention Center (formerly Oakland Civic Auditorium)
Is a Beaux-Arts style landmark that was built in 1914 by architect John J. Donovan. The city closed the facility in 2006. As of November 2014, the city wants a developer to create a combination of performance space, entertainment venues, conference and event spaces, light industrial/maker space, commercial office uses and retail and restaurant space. We would like the Exposition Organ to be considered as a part of this renovation and believe the project could benefit greatly from a stunning visual and musical focal point in the main auditorium.
Bill Graham Auditorium
Returning the instrument back to the Bill Graham Auditorium (Civic Auditorium) where the instrument had been installed in 1917 and heard by thousands for nearly 75 years. This solution is no longer an option as the city of San Francisco has leased the Bill Graham Auditorium to a third-party event company which does not want the instrument back in the hall. Presenting the concept of returning the restored organ back into the auditorium was not possible as Friends of the Exposition Organ was excluded from conversations between The City and this third party event company.
The Old Mint south of Market in downtown San Francisco is another obvious choice, given the nature and historical pedigree of the building and the fact that the building is now the home of the San Francisco Historical Society and Museum. However, there is no open space large enough in the building and putting the organ in the court yard would not only require an atrium style roof, but would still not be large enough for the Exposition Organ.
Saint Joseph’s Church
St. Joseph’s Church is a San Francisco historic landmark (no. 120). Built in 1913, the building is located in the SOMA District and has been vacant since the earthquake of 1989. Some have expressed ideas for this building as an option for The Exposition Organ, particularly with its proximity to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, but the interior of the church lacks sufficient width and the instrument would be an overwhelming presence sonically. Recently, a developer expressed interest in reopening the building after completing necessary seismic upgrades. The building would be used as an office space for technology companies and also retail space. The project has already received the thumbs-up from the Historic Preservation Commission. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Music Concourse at Golden Gate Park
The Music Concourse is an open-air plaza within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It was originally excavated for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. While this location could be modeled after the Spreckles Organ installation at Balboa Park, San Diego, the weather in Golden Gate Park is patently not suitable for such an endeavor. Nor is an outdoor organ really a viable concept for this pipe organ as more than 50% of a pipe organ is the building in which the instrument is located. There simply would be no acoustic support to act as a soundboard.
Inscription on the Civic Auditorium Plaque
“This instrument, a gift from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition to the City of San Francisco in accordance with its original purpose was removed to this memorial exposition auditorium. The earnest men and women who made this possible cherish the hope that its use for wholesome and uplifting purposes will carry forward for the benefit for all the spirit that animated The Exposition.”