The Elsinore’s Mighty Wurlitzer Organ
The Elsinore’s Mighty Wurlitzer is the result of Salem organ buffs
Clayton and Rick Parks wanting to find the perfect home for
their residence theatre pipe organ. A brief history of the
is provided below.
In 1966, Clayton Parks acquired a 4 rank Wurlitzer organ for his
West Salem home. The organ was originally installed in the
United States Theatre in Vancouver, WA. It contained about 250
pipes. Three years later, another small Wurlitzer with 6 ranks,
originally installed in Wurlitzer’s San Francisco store, was
purchased and combined with the first organ. The instrument
contained about 700 pipes while in the Parks residence. Live
pipe organ music was enjoyed in the home for twenty years,
before the decision was made to remove it. Many parts had been
collected and were stored since 1966, with the intent of someday
finding a large building for the organ to speak into.
In 1986, Clayton’s son, Rick, found a new home for the
instrument. The Elsinore Theatre in downtown Salem, then owned
by Tom Moyer was being operated as a movie theatre. The Parks
family kept ownership of the organ and reached an agreement with
Mr. Moyer to install their pipe organ in the theatre’s existing
chambers, left vacant in 1962 when the original 13 rank
Wurlitzer was removed. The Elsinore changed ownership to an Act
III theatre in 1989. The theatre became a performing arts center
four years later, currently owned and operated by Historic
Elsinore Theatre Inc.
The Parks Family donated the organ to the theatre in 1994. The
M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust generously gave $60,000 towards
improving the theatre’s Mighty Wurlitzer. An anonymous donor
also gifted one of the original Wurlitzer’s ranks of pipes.
To make the Elsinore’s current Wurlitzer a fine performing
instrument several items needed to be replaced and upgraded. The
first acquisition was a larger 3 manual console to control the
additional planned ranks of pipes. This particular console was
completely rebuilt, including new electronic stop actions.
Besides the larger console, a state-of-the-art personal computer
relay system was purchased to replace old 1920’s era air and
electricity operated relays. The old relays are bulky and were
hard to maintain, besides taking an entire room to house them.
The computer relay is really the “brains” of the organ,
controlling all keying, switching and operating functions while
the organ is being played.
Some of the additional ranks (a rank usually consists of at
least 61 pipes having a distinct sound) and other items that
were added to the organ are: 16’ solo tibia (original), 16’
diaphonic diapason, 16’ tuba horn, 8’ trumpet (new), 8’
orchestral oboe, 8’ krumet (new), 8’ gambas (two sets, new),
upright piano, marimba/harp, orchestral roll cymbal
(custom-built), various sound effects, tremulants (the shaking
bellows devices that produce audible vibrato), three regulators
(new), a 4 rank windchest, several single rank chests, leather,
felt, stop tablets and stop action magnets (new).
organ now has 26 ranks, for a total of 1,778 pipes. The pipes
range in size from a pencil up to 16’ in length. The four
chambers above the proscenium arch contain 11 tons of pipe
The organ is now called the Parks/Murdock Mighty Wurlitzer. All
maintenance on the instrument is done by a volunteer crew,
assisted and supervised by Rick and Clayton Parks.
The Elsinore’s Wurlitzer is currently the largest theatre organ
installed in a theatre or performing arts center in the Pacific
Northwest. The instrument can be heard during regularly
scheduled silent movies and for occasional concerts. It is one
of the finest Wurlitzer pipe organs in the country!
Contact the Theatre at 503-375-3574 to
schedule group tours (15 or more people) or