Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Johnson Organ with Rose Window

Emmanuel Baptist Church contracted in 1870 with the Johnson & Son organ company of Westfield, Massachusetts to build an organ for the newly built church. Emmanuel had moved away from its Pearl Street facility in Albany, NY and began ministry in 1871 on State Street. The organ is as old as Emmanuel. Organs built by Johnson & Son possessed excellent balance, splendid dignity and beautiful voicing, representing a monument of artistry and craftsmanship.

Keyboard, Controllers and Stops

In 1996, restorative work was completed by A R Strauss, of Ithaca.
He did extensive repair work on the trackers, replacing many worn-out parts. Consequently the organ had been made much easier to play. At the time, he said it should last “another hundred years.” Until this past winter, Emmanuel’s Johnson Organ, Opus 341, had been one of a select few classic organs, functioning in almost original condition.

Blower in Basement

Diagnosing the failure of the blower last November has been a complex exploration into the function of our organ.


Replacing the blower involves improving the electrical amperage supply, a new motor, and dehumidification of the basement area for the blower. Cost will be under $4,000.

Blower is actually a turbine, which turns 1100 RPM and supplies a strong wind.


Ascending through the Narthex staircase, the blower moves air through the distribution system, hidden behind the Johnson Organ fa├žade. This is the wind for voicing of flue pipes, creating Diapasons, Vox Humana, tremulo and strings. The amount of wind entering the pipes is carefully adjusted to create the dynamic sound of the organ.

Steam Boiler Heating Options

Failed Smith 3500 Boiler on the left [#1] had generated heat in Emmanuel's basement since the 1970’s, initially using home heating oil, then converted to natural gas, until approximately 2001. That left (western) boiler has been functionally abandoned.

Remaining on the right [#2] (east), this boiler has been repaired multiple times by Stants Combustion. New steel plating, rebricking, materials and labor are proposed for this fall at a cost of approximately $3,800.

Mills Boiler 4500

Estimates from Stants Combustion, Crisafulli Brothers, Precision Heating and Farrell Brothers, Inc. have been solicited for replacement of the left-sided [#1] (west) boiler.

Dismantling, rigging, piping and electrical modifications are needed. Re-use of the existing burner with a new boiler might save some costs. Zone control and piping insulation are being investigated as separate costs. Asbestos abatement is excluded.

Cost estimates have ranged from $30K to $45K. Comparisons are incomplete among the different contractors, but addressing the magnitude of costs for a replacement boiler must be a congregational decision in the coming months.