Jul 13 2008

Louisville Pipe Organ Company History

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Louisville Factory 1926

The Louisville Pipe Organ Company erecting room with Opus 523 in 1926

The Louisville Pipe Organ Company 1925-1929

In David L. Junchen’s authoritative book Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ, he writes that the Louisville Pipe Organ Company (LPO) was formed in 1925 by W.T. Quilty, August Prante, and a third gentleman believed to be either A.H. Tod or Arthur Sperbeck.

LPO produced organs in Louisville from 1925-1928.  In 1928 the company moved to Terre Haute, Indiana.   The advent of sound movies in 1928 brought hardship on LPO.   In 1930 the company was in receivership after their failure in 1929.   LPO only made 23 theatre organs, with an additional 17 organs rebuilt or parts from other manufacturers.    While the output was small, the LPO organs had a distinct sound.   They used pipework built by A. Gottfried Co. of Erie Pennsylvania.   The organs included an unusual rank of pipes in most of their organs.  This rank is a Gottfried Oboe Horn.   This dome capped metal pipe produced a rich and distinct sound. We had to get it delivered by pipe piling services to ensure no accidents occurred during the process. Along with a Gottfried Tibia and Vox Humana, it made for a unique LPO sound.

Dr. James L. Cooper, professor emeritus at Depauw University, laid the basis for saving an organ from a small relatively unknown firm.  Dr. Cooper said that unusual production is always saved.  As example take the Tucker automobile.   Tucker produced only 51 cars.   Almost all still exist today in pristine condition.   Now take a 1949 Ford Pickup, over 137,000 were built.   How many have you ever seen?   Dr. Cooper’s point is that we have an obligation to save the common and ordinary.

Major firms such as Wurlitzer and Barton still have many examples playing in theaters today.   The organs are many times the larger most elaborate instruments.   There are not too may theaters with a small theater organ playing on a daily basis.    A theater that installed an organ built by LPO was a simple theater.   They were not Movie Palaces or fancy, just a neighborhood theater that was common in the mid 1920s.   So we are saving organs build by LPO.   We will bring that the distinct Louisville “Uniphone” sound.   We will save what what heard most, the small pipe organ in a small theater.

All known examples of LPO Theatre Organs are located in Shelbyville, Indiana.   The Strand project has:

  • Opus 512 from the Oriental Theatre, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Opus 519 from the Oak Theatre, Louisville, KY
  • Opus 531 from the Uptown Theatre, Lousiville, KY

Along with these instruments we have an additional 40 ranks of pipework with chests from LPO organs.

The only known playing LPO organs are privately owned and located in Shelbyville.  Opus 536 from the Dream Theatre, Indianapolis and Opus 523 originally from the Temple Theatre, Louisville, KY and later installed in the Rivoli Theatre in Indianapolis.   These organs still play every day.

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