December 10, 2004. Paddy and I saw an item on the internet about the Wanamaker Organ which is world's largest pipe organ still in operation. The John Wanamaker store is now a Lord & Taylor department store at the same 13th and Market streets in Philadelphia. I remember hearing the organ at Christmas time when I was just a kid and I also remember the tune "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" which I keep humming to myself over and over. My brother Les reminded me that our mom and dad used to take us from Allentown, PA to Philadelphia via the Liberty Bell Limited trolley when I was about 8 years old. My sister-in-law Ruth reminded me that when the organ would play, the store Christmas trees lights would blink in sync with the music. At the time, I didn't know it was the world's largest organ, but I did know that it had an awesome sound! The original store was build in the early 1900's by John Wanamaker, and was in operation under the name Wanamaker for about 90 years. The monster pipe organ was built in 1904 for the St. Louis World's fair, and brought east on 13 railroad freight cars in 1909. Wanamaker hired 40 full time employees who, over many years, added 18,000 additional pipes. Today the organ has 28,482 pipes and weights 287 tons. What this saxophone player found interesting is that when the organist presses a key, he doesn't hear the sound for about 1 full second because of the massive relay systems and physical distances over which the monster operates. I could not imagine playing the sax with a one second delay! The Wanamaker Pipe Organ visit was a most interesting and delightful experience.
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1: A very spacious and beautiful store viewed from the Market street entrance.
2-4: A kid's eye view of the store light show from the Lord & Taylor cafe, where Paddy and I had lunch.
5: At the lower left of the photo you can get a tiny glimpse of the organ console in relation to the very large room that the organ sound must fill. What appears to be organ pipes is mearly a tiny facade, as the gigantic organ takes up the full ground to ceiling area 30 feet behind the facade.
6: The console as seen from our cafe vantage point with a telephoto lens.
7: We finished lunch and ventured down to the organ console area, where one could see the organist on closed circuit TV.
8: After the concert, the organist's maintenance chief (left) invited Paddy and me to enter the closed chamber where also met the organist (right).
9: Paddy at the console of the world's largest working pipe organ.
10: A most beautiful store in the grand tradition of John Wanamaker and Lord & Taylor
11: Every time Paddy and I see a large mirror, we have to do this. This one, at Lord & Taylor, was of exceptionally good quality and very clean.
12: After buying a few Christmas gifts in Lord & Taylor, we ventured down to the restaurant that makes Ken's favorite canned soup, but alas it was under major renovations, so it was closed.