Spreckels Organ Pavilion
Spreckels Organ Pavilion, located in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, is one of the world's largest outdoor pipe organs. Constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, it is located at the corner of President's Way and Pan American Road East in the park.
The Organ was built by Austin Organs, Inc. as their Opus #453. It has 73 ranks totaling 4518 pipes and faces north. The audience therefore faces south. A roll-up steel curtain protects the Organ from sun and rain whenever it is not being played in concerts. Commercial airplane landings at San Diego's Lindbergh Field occasionally compete with the organ's sound.
Free organ concerts are given each Sunday at 2 p.m., sponsored by the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department and Spreckels Organ Society. In summer, concerts are also held Monday evenings (International Organ Festival), and the Park Concert series on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Dr. Carol Williams has been the Civic Organist since 2001, the first woman civic organist in the world and International Concert organist. Her predecessor, Robert Plimpton, served as civic organist from 1984 to 2000 and is now designated as Civic Organist Emeritus. The organ is maintained by Curator Lyle Blackinton.
In December the Community Christmas Center Committee places a Nativity scene display at the back of the pavilion, with other secular and non-Christian religious symbols also placed nearby. Choral and instrumental concerts and dance performances are presented on the pavilion stage on special occasions, such as the annual December Nights celebration.
John D. Spreckels, son of sugar magnate Claus Spreckels, decided to move to Coronado, California after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He became one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in San Diego County.
Spreckels' gifts to San Diego and Coronado were many. He particularly wanted the Panama-California Exposition to succeed and show San Diego to the world in a good light, so he contributed to and promoted the Exposition.
He and his brother Adolph B. Spreckels gave the organ pavilion as a gift to "the people of San Diego" and "the people of all the world". They donated $33,500 for the Organ and $66,500 for the Pavilion. John D. Spreckels also donated the services of organ tuner Dr. Humphrey J. Stewart for the two-year run of the Exposition. After the Exposition Spreckels extended Stewart's contract.
Spreckels chose Harrison Albright to design the Organ Pavilion. Albright was a self-taught Los Angeles architect, who previously designed the U. S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The semi-circular pavilion was built in an ornate Italian-Renaissance design. The organ was dedicated December 31, 1914. When Spreckels died in 1926, the pavilion was used for his memorial service.
During the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition the stage size was doubled and a fountain added. The fountain can be lit at night and is modeled after one in Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. In 1981 the pavilion was restored and in 2002 the organ was expanded from 3,400 to 4,518 pipes.
- "With Jets Providing Accompaniment, a Rare City Treasure Stands Exposed", New York Times, April 28, 2007
- Robert Plimpton biography, First United Methodist Church of San Diego
- about.com: December Nights
- San Diego History Center: The Spreckels Organ Pavillion in Balboa Park
- Christman (1985), p. 74
- Christman, Florence (1985). The Romance of Balboa Park (4th ed.). San Diego: San Diego Historical Society. ISBN 0-91874-003-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Spreckels Organ Pavalion.|
- "Spreckels Organ Society" Contains concert schedule information
- "The Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park" by Richard Amero (San Diego Historical Society)
- "Spreckels Organ Pavilion" (San Diego Park and Recreation Department)
- "Balboa Park - Spreckels Organ Pavilion" (Balboa Park website)