High school memories spark interest in revitalizing hidden treasure at Louisville Gardens
For years the pipe organ was hidden and nearly forgotten behind a curtain in the upper floor of the old arena, until Bill Lincoln remembered it.
He graduated from high school in 1969 at Louisville Gardens. "And I remember processing in and sitting on a platform right underneath the organ," he said.
Lincoln is now the organist and music director at St. Boniface Catholic Church.
"Late last year, I came across an information sheet and Chris Poynter, who sings in my choir, I showed it to him after choir rehearsal. And he was dumbfounded to know there was even an organ in here," said Lincoln.
Poynter is the spokesman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, and he immediately got to work.
"A couple of weeks ago, we came in here with an organ expert, and we were able to fire it up and get it running again. So, it's an amazing piece of Louisville history," said Poynter.
The organ was built in 1933 by the Kilgen company of St. Louis and originally installed at the old WHAS radio studio.
"Most of the stations had their own resident organist. Over the years, of course, these have mostly disappeared," said organ historian Stephen Schnurr.
The organ was donated to Louisville Gardens in the late 50s or early 60s where it was used for everything from graduation ceremonies to basketball games, but it hasn't been used at all in about 20 years.
"We figure it's been at least 65 years since it has had major, major work," said Schnurr.
Now, as the city seeks a developer to restore Louisville Gardens, supporters also want to save what is believed to be Louisville's last remaining theater organ.
"We'd love to renovate it, and move it to another space in the city where it can be used and played," said Poynter.
It would be a treasure saved from the junk heap and preserved for a new generation.
"Usually when you come to municipal organs like this, they're practically in ruins. Pipes are missing, vandalism, people have pushed chairs and everything into it," said Lincoln. "This has been like somebody closed the door and said, 'Sleep until somebody rediscovers you again.'"
There's no estimate yet as to how much it might cost to restore and remove the organ, but Chris Poynter says it will likely be paid for largely through private donations.
For years it was out of sight and out of mind, but now an old pipe organ has become Louisville Gardens' diamond in the rough.
For more information about the organ and the effort to preserve it, you may contact Chris Poynter at email@example.com or (502) 574-4546.
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