St. John the Baptist Catholic Church - New York City

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Church of St. John the Baptist
(Roman Catholic)

207 West 30th Street
New York, N.Y. 10001


Organ Specifications:
207 West 30th Street (since 1872)
• V/86 Church Organ Systems electronic
III/24 J.H. & C.S. Odell, Op. 546 (1922) – burned 1997
• unknown (c.1872)
125 West 30th Street (c.1847-1872)
• II/28 Ferris & Stuart (1852)
West 31st Street (1840-burned 1847)
• Henry Erben (1837)


The Roman Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist was organized in 1840 as the second parish to serve German Catholics in New York. (St. Nicholas Church, on the Lower East Side, was established in 1833.) Located on the West side of Manhattan, the original church was a small wooden building on West 31st Street; this church was destroyed by fire in 1847. A new church was built at 125 West 30th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Both German churches had lay trustees that were so overbearing that they drove out several pastors. In desperation, Archbishop John Cardinal McClosky closed St. John the Baptist in 1870 and asked that the Order of Capuchin take over the operations of the church.

The first Capuchin pastor, Swiss-born Father Bonventura Frey, proved to be well-liked by his new congregation, and within a short time old animosities had abated. Father Frey challenged his German flock to express their ethnic and civic pride by building a more substantial edifice. His goal revitalized the parish, and on Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 1871, the cornerstone was laid for the present church. Designed in French Gothic style by Nicholas Le Brun, the new church was 165 feet long by 67 feet wide and could originally accomodate 1,200 people. The tall tower over the main entrance contains five swinging bells that were cast by the J.G. Stuckstede & Bro. Foundry in St. Louis. On June 23, 1872, the $175,000 church was opened with an elaborate service led by Archbishop McClosky.

Since the opening in 1910 of nearby Pennsylvania Station, St. John the Baptist has served the many commuters who pass through or work near the area. On January 10, 1997, a fire destroyed the organ, choir gallery and numerous statues and stained-glass windows. The damage was soon repaired and a new electronic organ was installed. Now dwarfed by hi-rise office buildings, the church's bells still peal forth from its tower each day.
           
  Organ Case at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church - New York City (credit: Steven E. Lawson)
Church Organ Systems
Baldwin, Wisc. – Baldwin Model C500 (c.1997)
Electronic tonal production
5 manuals, 86 stops


Following the 1997 fire that destroyed the Odell organ and choir gallery, an electronic instrument manufactured by Church Organ Systems was installed in the rebuilt gallery. The five-manual drawknob console controls six independent divisions without couplers. Audio speakers are placed behind the restored organ case and within the console.
           
  J.H. & C.S. Odell organ, Op. 546 (1922) in  St. John the Baptist Catholic Church - New York City   J.H. & C.S. Odell organ, Op. 546 (1922) in  St. John the Baptist Catholic Church - New York City
J.H. & C.S. Odell & Co.
Yonkers, N.Y. – Opus 546 (1922)
Electro-pneumatic action
3 manuals, 25 stops, 24 ranks



In 1922, the Odell Company installed a new three-manual organ in the church. Odell remodeled and repainted the existing case and reset it approximately 2 feet closer to the tower room. The front display pipes were repaired, remodeled and gilded with gold bronze. In 1997, the organ and choir gallery were destroyed by fire.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes
8
  Major Diapason
73
4
  Flute Harmonic
73
8
  Gamba
73
4
  Octave
73
8
  Dulciana
73
8
  Trumpet
73
8
  Doppel Flute
73
       

     

     
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon
73
4
  Rohr Flute
73
8
  Open Diapason
73
8
  Oboe
73
8
  Salicional
73
8
  Vox Humana
61
8
  Aeoline
73
    Tremulant  
8
  Vox Celestis [TC]
61
   
Chimes
20 tubes
8
  Stopped Diapason
73
       

     

     
Choir Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed
8
  Violin Diapason
73
2
  Piccolo Harmonic
61
8
  Viol d'Orchestre
73
8
  Clarinet
73
8
  Melodia
73
    Tremulant  
4
  Flute d'Amour
73
       

     

     
Pedal Organ – 32 notes
16
  Double Open Diapason
32
16
  Bourdon
SW
16
  Sub Bass
32
       
               
Couplers
    Great to Pedal   Swell to Choir 8'
    Swell to Pedal   Great 16', 4'
    Choir to Pedal   Swell 16', 4'
    Swell to Great 16', 8', 4'   Choir 16', 4'
    Choir to Great 16', 8', 4'   Pedal to Pedal Octaves
               
Piston Combinations
   
Swell Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4
Great Organ Pistons 1-2-3-4
Choir Organ Pistons 1-2-3
Full Organ Pistons 1-2-3-0
               
Pedal Movements
    Crescendo-Sforzando Pedal   Balanced Choir Pedal
    Balanced Swell Pedal   Great to Pedal Reversible
               
Accessories
    Wind Indicator          
    Crescendo Indicator          
    Indicator Lights for Pedal Pistons      
           
Organ in previous church located at 125 West 30th Street:

Ferris & Stuart
New York City (1852)
Mechanical action
2 manuals, 28 ranks


The American Musical Directory of 1861 shows that the organ in this church had "2 banks keys, 28 stops, 2 octaves pedals" and was "Built by R. M. Ferris, in 1852." It seems likely that this organ was moved to the new church building in 1872. Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
           
Organ in previous church located at 125 West 30th Street:

Henry Erben
New York City (1837)
Mechanical action


Specifications for this organ have not yet been located.
           
Sources:
     "A New Church. Dedication of the Roman Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist," The New York Times (June 24, 1872).
     American Musical Directory. New York: Thomas Hutchinson, 1861.
     Dunlap, David. From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
     Gonzalez, David. "Church Fire Leaves Faith Unscathed," The New York Times (Jan. 22, 1997).
     Saenger, James G. Information on the five tower bells.
     Shelley, Thomas J. The Bicentennial History of the Archdiocese of New York 1808-2008. Strasbourg: Éditions du Signe, 2007.
     Trupiano, Larry. Specifications of Baldwin Model C500 organ (c.1997).
     Trupiano, Larry. Factory Specifications of J.H. & C.S. Odell Organ, Op. 546 (1922).

Illustrations:
     ALJB Collection. Console and case of J.H. & C.S. Odell organ, Op. 546 (1922).
     Lawson, Steven E. Interior; organ case.
     Shelley, Thomas J. The Bicentennial History of the Archdiocese of New York 1808-2008. Exterior.