Mayflower's Historic Pipe Organ

"Church Keys . . . "

Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In 1909, many years after its founding, the decision was made to purchase a pipe organ for Mayflower Church (then Congregational) of Pacific Grove, CA. This organ was purchased from the "Rolls Royce" of California pipe organ builders, the Murray M. Harris Co. of Los Angeles [Did you know there's a wiki page on Murray M. Harris]. The new organ was a donation to Mayflower from Silas Mack and Andrew Carnegie costing $3000. This organ had a tubular pneumatic action and was powered by a water operated blower. The 1909 organ specification:

8' Open Diapason8' Violin Diapason16' Bourdon
8' Melodia8' Stopped Diapason8' Great to Pedal
8' Dulciana8' Salicional (pure tin)8' Swell to Pedal
8' Swell to Great8' Voix Celeste 
4' Swell to Great4' Harmonic Flute 
 8' Oboe
- Tremolo

This 10-rank organ was dedicated on June 29, 1909 by Benjamin Moore, then of San Jose, and was the first pipe organ in Monterey County. Literally a week later on July 6, 1909, a 14-rank Murray Harris organ was dedicated for the Pacific Grove Methodist Church that stood at Lighthouse and 17th.

The first-organ-title-for-Mayflower held its Monterey County record for only 8 months and 1 week when the church and the new organ burned to the ground on early March 10, 1910. Andrew Carnegie was visiting in San Francisco and made the trip to Pacific Grove three days before the fire to see and hear his donation.

The church building was rebuilt almost immediately. It remained without a pipe organ until 1916 when the present instrument, similar to the burned instrument, was purchased from the California Organ Company of Van Nuys, CA--successors to the Murray Harris Company. However, the new 1916 instrument was built with an electro-pneumatic action, electric Kinetic blower and with an 8' Vox Humana rather than the 8' Oboe in the original instrument's Swell division. The California Organ Company instrument was dedicated on September 1, 1916 by the organist of Stanford University Memorial Church, Dr. Louis H. Eaton (who played on a fine 3-manual 51-rank Murray Harris organ from 1901, still installed and playing in the Memorial Church.)

The 1916 pipe organ in Mayflower Presbyterian became the oldest originally installed pipe organ in Monterey County when the Pacific Grove Methodist Church built a new sanctuary in the early 1960s and massively rebuilt their original organ with about half of it remaining in their excellent new instrument.

In the early 1950s, Pacific Grove native, the late great concert and theatre organist G. Thomas Hazleton grew up playing both of these instruments with the Mayflower organ being an early favorite for its semi-theatrical ensemble.

The Mayflower organ is now the combination of its original, fully intact 1916 instrument and a 1911 Murray M. Harris organ. The "new" Murray Harris organ was given to Mayflower Presbyterian as a gift from the late Frank S. Caglia, and his family of Fresno, CA. The Murray Harris portion added in 2010 is the 19-rank Murray Harris organ from Saint James Episcopal Church in Fresno.

The Mayflower console dates from the 1916 instrument. The original combination action was preserved inside the console for historic purposes, however a new multi-level solid state combination action was installed in 2010 to bring the organ to modern playing standards.

Click Here, for a comprehensive list of the Mayflower pipe organ resources.

Before (Click on image for larger view)

After (Click on image for larger view)

When completely playable, the front divisions contain 28 ranks and the Echo Organ of 6 ranks. The organ is typical of the period in which it was built--a romantic era instrument of rich foundational tone with not a hint of the neo-baroque fad so prevalent from 1950-1990.

Thomas L. DeLay is the present organist and also is maintaining and rehabilitating this historic instrument.

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Swell chamber of the Mayflower organ. There are 753 pipes in this division and play from the top keyboard (manual) of the organ console. In the large wooden box to the upper right are the 61 pipes of the Vox Humana, "human voice." The flared, spotted metal pipes are of the Oboe in the Swell division.

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These are some of the smallest pipes in the Swell division. These pipes had not played in 60+ years and were restored to playing condition in June 2009. The speaking length of the smallest pipes, near the cell phone, is just 1/4".

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Smallest pipes of the Harmonic Flute.

6 ranks of pipes in the Echo Organ at the back of the church. (Click on image for larger view)

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The picture above is the "Great" chamber and plays from the bottom keyboard (manual) of the organ console. A characteristic of Murray M. Harris and California Organ Company organs is that they made their wooden flutes of California redwood. They also made their windchests and wind reservoirs from redwood. The use of redwood for their various flute pipes gives the tonality a mellow sound unlike pipes made from harder wood.

The Great Chamber has 549 pipes plus the 61 unenclosed pipes of the facade. All the pipes in this photo were built in 1916.

The 17 longest pipes in the facade are real. After being disconnected in 1949, these pipes were restored to playing condition early in the summer of 2009. 45 pipes behind the flat of pipes at the top were awaiting to be connected. These pipes, formerly stored in the church basement, are shown in the photo on the right.

The Swell division is behind the left side of the gold facade pipes.
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A portion of the unenclosed facade pipes showing the extension ladder to gain access to 44 the treble pipes.(Click on image for larger view)

A portion of the pipe-work in the Great organ division. (Click on image for larger view)

The Mayflower organ Harp. (Click on image for larger view)

This is the large air reservoir (aka "bellows") for the Swell division of the organ.

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This strange looking device is the "tremolo" for the Swell division. Sometimes called vibrato, when in use, this devices moves up and down rapidly exhausting air to the Swell air reservoir to give the Swell pipes the tremolo effect.

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The 2 horsepower Kinetic pipe organ blower. This unit is located directly below the organ chambers.

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Like the Swell division, the Great division has its own air reservoir. Typical of Murray Harris and California Organ Company instruments, the parts are built of clear California Redwood.

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This is the blower for the Mayflower pipe organ. The Kinetic Blower Company built its blowers with wood cabinets rather than metal as with the Spencer Blower Co. The Echo organ will have a small Spencer blower when it is installed.

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