The Organ at Second Presbyterian Church

The pipe organ at Second Presbyterian Church has four manuals, and 44 ranks of pipes totaling 2,524 pipes. The majority of the pipes are located behind the large organ case. Several ranks of pipes are located in a room off the balcony. These pipes are intended to produce a celestial “echo” effect, so that section of the organ is appropriately called the “Echo Division.” A tonal opening in the wall can be seen on the south wall of the balcony. A set of Deagan tubular chimes is also located in the balcony on the south side. These chimes are played from the organ console, and were most likely installed in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The console of the organ is located in the south end of the choir loft.

The organ here at Second Presbyterian Church actually is not by one particular builder, but has evolved, over the years, into the splendid instrument it is today. The organ at Second Presbyterian Church actually has pipes from at least four different organ-building companies. The use and mix of this vast array of pipes gives the organ a very grand sound!

The first organ to be installed in the sanctuary was built by Johnson & Son of Westfield, Massachusetts, in 1873, their opus 410 (three manuals, 59 stops). Just a few years later, a new and highly fashionable organ was installed at Epiphany Episcopal Church on nearby Ashland Avenue by the Detroit firm of Farrand & Votey. This inspired the Church congregation to have Farrand & Votey install a new instrument, however it appears that some of the pipes of the original Johnson organ were retained.

As we know, a fire destroyed the interior of the church on March 8, 1900. The congregation immediately began to reconstruct the interior with the Howard Van Doren Shaw  design.  In 1901, the Hutchings-Votey organ company  of Boston, Massachusetts, installed a three manual, 53 stop organ, opus 535. It again appears that Hutchings-Votey used what they could salvage from the Farrand & Votey organ.

On July 9, 1917, a contract was signed with the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut, for opus 767, a four-manual, 44 rank, 50 stop, instrument with electro-pneumatic action. Once again, instead of a totally new organ, the Austin company reused almost all of the existing pipework, and added the Solo division (located in the upper part of the organ on the north side). At that time they also added a new 4-manual console, which is the same console that exists today.

Well-known organist Edward Eigenschenk, D. Mus., aago, (July 6, 1903-December 4, 1977) served as Organist and Director of Music to Second Presbyterian Church from 1929 to 1977. A concert musician who made several recordings, Eigenschenk was best known at Second Presbyterian Church for the annual production of Theodore Dubois’ Seven Last Words. For this, a special “Thunder” stop was installed in the Choir division. The Thunder stop consists of a piece of sheet metal connected to a pneumatic device which shakes the sheet of metal to imitate thunder. This type of device was commonly found among the various sound effects used in theater organs of the 1920s. This thundersheet most likely was removed from a theater organ in the late 1930s when many theaters began to fail, or were removing organs no longer required due to the demise of silent movies. Dr. Eigenschenk is reported to have played the organ for theaters in Chicago, so he was probably aware of any theater organ that was being dismantled, and he was able to acquire it for the church.

During the late 1960’s, it is thought that there was some type of damage, possibly vandalism, to the organ—specifically, the Choir division. To remedy this situation, some pipes were acquired from Lake Forest Presbyterian Church, as they were about to purchase a new organ.  Several ranks in the Choir division were replaced, and ranks of pipes were rearranged. Some ranks were relocated to the Echo division.

Present  specification of 1917 Austin opus 767:

Great (Manual II)

16         Double Diapason
8          First Diapason
8          Second Diapason
8          Gross Flute
8          Gedeckt
8          Gamba
8          Dulciana
4          Octave )
4          Flute
2-2/3     Twelfth
2          Fifteenth
16         Tuba Profunda (from Solo, 16′ Tuba Profunda)
8          Harmonic Tuba (from Solo, 16′ Tuba Profunda)
4          Harmonic Clarion (from Solo, 16′ Tuba Profunda)


Swell (Manual III—Enclosed, 5-3/4″ wind pressure)

16         Bourdon
8          Diapason
8          Gedeckt
8          Viole d’Orchestre
8          Salicional
8          Celeste
4          Violina
4          Flute
2-2/3      Nazard
2           Flautina
16         Contra Fagotto
8          Cornopean
8          Oboe
8          Vox Humana


Choir (Manual I–Enclosed)

8          Violin
8          Gedeckt
4          Gemshorn
2          Flute
8          Clarinet


 Solo (Manual IV—Enclosed, 10″ wind pressure)

8          Flauto Major
8          Gamba
8          Gamba Celeste
4          Flute Overte
16         Tuba Profunda
8          Harmonic Tuba
8          French Horn
4          Harmonic Clarion

Echo (Manual IV, presently unenclosed)8          Gedeckt
8          Flute Celeste
8          Vox Angelica (2 ranks)
8          Oboe


32         Resultant Diapason
16         Diapason
16         Violone
16         Bourdon
16         Gedeckt
8          Flute
8          Violoncello
8          Celeste
8          Gedeckt
4          Octave
16         Tuba Profunda
16         Contra Fagotto
8          Harmonic Tuba