The New Organ for
St. Francis Church R.C.
New Haven, Connecticut
E. & G.G. Hook & Hastings
Opus 750, 1874
THIS ORGAN WAS ORIGINALLY BUILT for the Davenport Congregational Church on Wooster Square in New Haven. The instrument was installed on floor level, front and center behind the pulpit in this large church seating 600. In 1928, Davenport church disbanded and the building and organ were sold to the Diocese of Hartford. The church was consecrated as St. Casimir’s Church (Lithuanian) and the organ was moved to the rear gallery, (not exceptionally well done) by the Hall Organ Company of New Haven. The organ was cleaned and bellows releathered by Richard Hamar of Collinsville, CT in 1969. This magnificent instrument was featured at both the 1974 (Central Connecticut) and 1994 (New Haven) National conventions of the Organ Historical Society to great acclaim. The fortunes of St. Casimir’s declined throughout the 1990’s and the church was closed in 2002. After consideration of whether to sell the organ or to relocate it within the Hartford Diocese, Hartford officials decided to give the organ to the nearby parish of St. Francis with the proviso that St. Francis raise the money to move and refurbish the instrument. This project was seized with relish by the pastor as the capstone of the parish’s monumental campaign to revitalize the parish as part of the 135th anniversary celebration which was observed on October 5th, 2003. Parish involvement in the form of cleaning and oiling the massive black walnut case and stripping the front pipes in preparation for redecoration created a vital sense of community within the parish.
The restoration work performed by S.L. Huntington & Co. included: reversal of all changes made to the instrument in 1928 and 1969; restoration of the action and manual windchests; replacement of the 1969 slide tuners, restoration of the three badly damaged reed stops and all damaged flue work, recovering of the keyboards in reclaimed museum ivory, releathering of the wood pipe stoppers, and complete tonal finishing to the new acoustics, replacement of all post-1874 metal action parts with wood and leather copies of the originals, and very importantly, the pitch was raised from 444 to 451. The front pipes were re-stenciled in the original designs by restoration artist Marylou Davis & Associates of Woodstock, CT.
The organ stands as a magnificent testament to the extraordinary work of the Hook firm both in craftsmanship and tonal excellence. The new location, the largest church in New Haven seating 1,500 persons, has spectacular acoustics. The organ appears so perfectly proportioned to the new location it looks as if it had been specially designed for this place and had in fact always been there. For those who may not know this spectacular instrument, it is well worth a detour. S.L. Huntington & Co. feels particularly proud to have been given the privilege and responsibility for restoring such a noble instrument.