Spreckels Organ

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For the organ pavilion in San Diego, see Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
Console of the Spreckels Organ.

The Spreckels Organ is a pipe organ that was designed by Ernest M. Skinner and was installed in 1924 at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor museum (often referred to as the "Legion of Honor") in San Francisco, California. Public performances are held on Saturdays and Sundays at 4 pm.

The organ was commissioned by John D. Spreckels. Placed on the right side of the console is a plaque that reads: "John D. Spreckels has generously given the organ in this temple for the pleasure of those who, like himself, are lovers of music AD MCMXXIV." Spreckels donated the organ as a tribute to his brother Adolph, who was dying from syphilis. Adolph died before it was completed.[1]


The organ is located in the Rodin gallery of the museum. The organ is built to blend into the museum's structure, and the 4500 pipes are not visible to visitors. The ceiling of the gallery is canvas, painted in a trompe-l'œil style to resemble a marble apse, so that the organ can be heard throughout the gallery and museum.[2]

Organ features and materials[edit]

In tune with the overall majesty of the Legion of Honor, the organ features the use of rare woods incorporated into the working designs: ebony, mahogany, walnut and the use of ivory keys and stops, and three high pressure wind turbines totaling power of 48 horsepower (36 kW) to provide the main wind supply for the organ's pipes and pneumatic system. Boasting additional assets of pneumatically operated percussion instruments, a thunder pedal, a set of large tubular chimes, and the final cost of over $110,000.00 a scarce six years before the dawn of the Great Depression, the allotment for this instrument was seen as the last word in modern entertainment.

In the overall intrinsic quality of the instrument, Skinner crafted the final piece to include a four manual, one hundred and seven stop, sixty-three rank and four-thousand five hundred and forty-two pipes organ. All together, the organ comprises one Great Organ, a Swell Organ, a Choir Organ featuring a 16 foot Contra Dulciana, Choir Organ Echo, a Solo Organ, Solo Organ Echo, an Arch Organ outfitted with 8 foot Arch Clarion, a 64 foot Gravissima and a 32 foot Bourdon Profunda, in addition to the final traps that were enclosed in the choir: Bass drum, castanets, Chinese block, crash cymbal, gong snare drum (f), snare drum (ff), and a tambourine triangle. Like other Skinner-built organs, the instrument was designed to replicate the whole symphony.[2]

Historical context establishing the novelty of the organ[edit]

It is important to note, that in the period 1917-1923, organ concerts were so highly regarded, that public community performances usually numbered attendance nearing 1,000.

By the time Ernest Skinner came to build the Spreckels organ, he was already highly regarded within the industry. For many, the possession of a Skinner organ signified that its ownership was suggestive of regal nature. For a time in which much of America's population were still utilizing the outdoor privy, a space not intended as a house of worship to include a Skinner organ, was nearly unheard of. Of course, the era of the silent movie was in full swing, but still novel the idea to provide the public with entertainment was respected and well received- most usually, only shopping centers or department stores on the East Coast featured such accoutrements. Rarely did such culture come to the West Coast, and certainly not in the form of a Roman temple overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Nonetheless, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor spared little expense insuring that the finest of entertainment would be provided for its patrons.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Amero, Richard. "The Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park". San Diego Historical Society. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  2. ^ a b "The Skinner Organ". Legion of Honor. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 

External links[edit]