HISTORY OF MILWAUKEE’S KIMBALL THEATRE PIPE ORGAN & THE ORIENTAL THEATRE
The Kimball organ in the Oriental Theatre boasts a rather unusual history. It was built in 1927 as opus 6946, one of twin 3-manual, 28-rank instruments intended for installation in Stanley Theatres in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. For unknown reasons, the Pittsburgh organ was not sent, and remained in storage at the factory until another suitable theatre would be constructed by the Stanley-Warner Corporation. The Milwaukee Warner Theatre (later renamed, and now known as, The Grand) was the appropriate house, and the organ had its debut in 1931 with Stephen Beauclaire at the console.
Apparently, parts of the original 1927 instrument were used by Kimball during the four years of storage and were replaced with contemporary components at the time of installation. In addition, several pieces show the numbers 6944 and 6945, which would correspond with opus numbers for the Strand Theatre in Brooklyn and the Baltimore Stanley, respectively.
The organ was removed from the Warner Theatre in 1973 when the house was divided into two theatres. After many years of storage and much debate as to its eventual disposition, the organ was given to the Kimball Theatre Organ Society for installation in the Oriental Theatre. A volunteer workforce has contributed thousands of hours to thoroughly rebuild and enlarge the instrument.
The stoplist, switching system, and winding have been modified to meet current playing demands, but the original pneumatic combination action has been restored.
Although the original organ was quite large, the single tibia, tuba, and two voxes were insufficient. The instrument was also lacking a pair of spitz flutes, viola celeste, quintadena, additional voxes, several 16′ bass extensions and a post horn. A set of tower chimes and a 32′ diaphone extension are yet to be installed.
Except as noted in the analysis, the added pipes and associated mechanical components were obtained from other Kimball instruments or reproduced to match Kimball designs in function, materials, and assembly.
The Kimball Theatre Organ Society (KTOS) was most pleased to be able to present the restored and enlarged organ in its debut during the 1991 ATOS Regional Convention.