3/10 Rainbow Room Wurlitzer

Experience the sound of the Theatre Pipe Organ

Rahway Senior Citizens Center
1306 Esterbrook Avenue, Rahway, N.J.

Map & Directions

Read about the Rahway, N.J. Senior Citizens Center

Location / Owner History


Restored Art Deco Console
Moved to Rahway, NJ July 10, 1999
  1. 1934 Radio City Rainbow Room, NY
  2. 1954 Joe Oelhaf Residence, NY
  3. Lee Hulko Residence New Hope, PA (storage)
  4. 1999 GSTOS, Rahway Seniors Center, NJ

This very, very special 3/10 Wurlitzer, Opus 2185, Style R16 (a residence style) started its life as a demonstrator in the Wurlitzer factory. It was later respecified, and in March of 1934 it was shipped to the world famous Rainbow Room restaurant and nightclub 65 stories above the street in the RCA Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, NYC. As respecified, the organ features two consoles and a roll player. One console, the art deco style shown in the photos, was built just for this venue. It was installed in the Rainbow Room, truly one of the poshest night clubs New York has ever known. The other console, featuring more staid residence styled Wurlitzer cabinetry, was installed in the Rainbow Grille, at the other end of the floor. The pipe chambers were located between the two rooms, enabling the organ to speak into both spaces. The instrument was used every evening to provide music between orchestra sets. Famous artists who played included Dick Leibert, Ann Leaf, and Ray Bohr. One likes to think of patrons fox-trotting to the organ’s melodies on the Rainbow Room’s revolving glass block dance floor with colored lights beneath, activated by the music. (Hence the name “Rainbow Room”). When artists were not present, the art deco style roll player, crafted to match the console, and with cabinetry that doubled as a sideboard for the restaurant, could be used to entertain diners.


Recent Photo of the Rainbow Room

The R-16 style was Wurlitzer’s 2 manual 9 rank R-14 style modified with the addition of a third manual and one additional rank (Clarinet). The Rainbow Room organ’s 10 ranks are: Tuba, Open Diapason, Tibia Clausa, Salicional, Clarinet, Oboe Horn, Vox Humana, Vox Celeste, Flute, and Dulciana. There are also two tuned percussions: Chrysoglott and Cathedral Chimes.
Only one R-14 was ever built, and only two R-16s were ever built. The first, R-16 Opus 2051, started out at a Wurlitzer store, and was then installed at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1929. In 1955 it made its way to the Goslin residence in Flint Ridge, CA, in 1969 was moved to the Dean McNichols residence, Downy, CA., and today plays at a private residence in Massachusetts.

The GSTOS Rainbow Room Wurlitzer, is thus a very, very rare, unique, and famous historic instrument that GSTOS is privileged to own!


Art Deco Console at the Factory
Jeff Weiler Collection Photo

Ray Bohr Plays at the Rainbow Room
Jeff Weiler Collection Photo

Around 1954 noted Radio City Music Hall organist Dick Leibert handled the sale of the organ to Joe Oelhaf and it was removed from the Rainbow Room. The instrument was installed in the Oelhaf family residence in NYC by Louis Ferrara, Sr. Curator of the Wurlitzer at Radio City Music Hall. It was maintained at the Oelhaf residence for many years by Ferrara, and by Sr. Curator of the Radio City Music Hall Organ, Ronald Bishop.

Its next owner, GSTOS member Lee Hulko of Carversville, Pa., had intended to install the organ at his residence near New Hope, but changed his mind, switching his interest to electronic theatre organs. Lee donated the pipe organ to GSTOS in 1999. The gift consisted of the entire organ in excellent condition, including both the art deco and the residence style consoles, and the art deco roll player with 290 rolls of music by famous theatre organists. In addition, Lee was kind enough to make a generous cash contribution for use in rebuilding and installation.


GSTOS Crew Members Move the Organ Parts

Rahway Senior Citizens Center
New Home of the GSTOS Rainbow Room Wurlitzer

GSTOS then arranged to install the organ at the Rahway Senior Citizens Center in Rahway, N.J.

The instrument was moved there by GSTOS volunteers on July 10, 1999. Installation work under the leadership of Crew Chief Mike Fox began in May, 2000. After a slow start, the Rainbow Room Wurlitzer rebuilding and installation at the Rahway Senior Citizens Center gained momentum because Mike retired from his full time employment and was able to direct more of his energy to the project. By the end of 2008, the crew was able to play some notes manually on the main chest and on one of the offset chests. The ladies of the crew had finished restoring the last two regulators and two of the tremulants.

July, 2009 Crew Chief Report

As of June 18th we have both chambers about 95% winded. The swell shades in both chambers, two tremulants in the solo chamber, one small offset chest, and the chrysoglott are all that are left to be winded. These all require small 3″ wind lines, which can be installed relatively quickly. The big challenge was the 10″ metal wind lines from the blower to the regulators, which are now complete.

The walls in the solo chamber are nearly done. We had to build a platform over the shower area to level and repair the floor. This modification was necessary to install a regulator and the chimes in that area. George Andersen and Cal Bacon are cleaning up the wiring and troubleshooting the main chamber. Denise Andersen, Carole Rustako, Jinny Vanore and Barbara Bacon are rebuilding the tremulant pallet valves to improve the trem cycle. No matter what we throw in their direction, the ladies say, “we’ll fix it,” and “never a discouraging word” (my words).

One important aspect of the project is the repair and refinishing of the art deco console. Peragallo Pipe Organ Co. in Paterson did a first class job on a console that had seen its better days. It is as close to what it once looked like decades ago as is possible. Thanks Frank Peragallo!

The three rank solo chest, the offset chests, chimes, chrysoglott and swell shades, all in the solo chamber, still need to be wired into the computer. We’re getting much closer to completion!

December, 2009 Crew Chief Report

A few weeks ago we pulled out the refinished console, took off the moving blankets, and started to assemble it. During refinishing, the console was partially disassembled for repairs and the refinishing processes. The bench, pedal board and panels were stored at my home until we were ready for them. Tony Rustako has been working on the new stop rail and key desk, replacing the old pneumatic actions with Syndyne actions. This was a necessary change due to the need for mobility of the console. The console will have a place of prominence on the floor of the Seniors Center, but it will have to be moved if the need arises. Unfortunately, most of the ivory key surfaces came loose during storage. To make this type of repair is very difficult and time-consuming. Also, a raised hardwood platform will be fabricated to match the existing floor and two grills for the chamber openings will be built and covered with the speaker material that matches the acoustic panels lining the walls of the main room. Tony also built and installed a remote start switch for the blower. George Andersen and Cal Bacon are finalizing the wiring of the solo chamber, along with some computer code and winding changes. These changes were the result of adding a thirty-seven note xylophone to the solo chamber. We had placed the chrysoglott in the solo chamber due the lack of room in the main chamber, where it would normally be installed. With the addition of the xylophone we had to rethink the location of the chrysoglott. We were able to move the 12-note flute offset in the main chamber to make room for the chrysoglott. This was no easy task. It took several work sessions to accomplish the move. Every installation is a learning process. Every new project results in new challenges, and new knowledge.

April, 2011 Crew Chief Report

The worst is over as far as demolition and construction of chambers and tone chutes. It has taken many years and countless hours to get to this point. For now, the organ is playing with the newly acquired Organ Supply Industries console which will later find its permanent home with the GSTOS Wurlitzer at the Brook Performing Arts Center in Bound Brook The Rainbow Room console is nearing completion and will be placed on a movable platform. The Artisan electronic relay system is operating the organ with little or no problems, and thanks to this system we can move the console anywhere on the floor as needed.

We have tuned the organ completely now, and the results are amazing. The volume and tone have greatly increased — it’s almost too loud without the swell shades, but that is a good thing! We had some concerns about low volume because of the building construction. This week we will install the swell shades, connect the rebuilt motors to them, and then connect them to the relay system. We should have full volume control soon. There are many refinements to be made, but they are small in comparison to what we have achieved to this point. We are getting a great deal of interest by the City of Rahway and the arts department as we near completion. There are rumblings about joint projects between the City and GSTOS for senior programs. The Jerseyaires have already mentioned that they were interested in some type of joint program. Building this organ is one thing, putting it to good use is another. The interest is there, and again, that’s a good thing!

October, 2011 Crew Chief Report

The organ is in its shakedown phase, playing for the public prior to tonal finishing and a formal debut.

“RAHWAY ARTS” TO FEATURE RAINBOW ROOM WURLITZER AT “FIRST THURSDAYS”

The Town of Rahway is seeking to become an Arts destination, and has been waiting in anticipation for the completion of our Rainbow Room Wurlitzer at the Seniors Center. As a result, GSTOS is now part of their first Thursday of the month cultural program. Our role is to provide organists for the Rainbow Room Organ. The artists will play a one hour concert of music for the public. Admission is free, sponsored by the City of Rahway.

September, 2013

The shakedown “First Thursdays” concerts continue as the crew puts finishing touches on the organ.

Update, 2016

GSTOS co-founder Joe Vanore has donated his entire toy counter and a Deagan Vibraharp from his home installation to the project. The crew is currently busy restoring these components. Their addition will serve to make the Residence Style instrument more theatrical. Today, fifteen years after the project’s start, the organ continues to plays in a shakedown mode for “First Thursdays” concerts and for Open Consoles. We anxiously await final completion, tonal finishing and a formal debut concert as GSTOS recreates an important part of American Theatre Organ musical history!


Vanore Toy Counter Donated to the Rainbow Room Installation

Read about the only other R-16 Residence Organ Wurlitzer ever built.

Rainbow Room 3/10 Wurlitzer Stop List

Solo

Tuba 8′
Open Diapason 8′
Tibia Clausa 8′
Clarinet 8′
Oboe Horn 8′
Salicional 8′
Flute 8′
Vox Humana 8′
Octave 4′
Piccolo 4′
Salicet 4′
Flute 4′
Twelfth 2 2/3′
Piccolo 2′
Cathedral Chimes
Pedal
Bass 16′
Bourdon 16′
Tuba 8′
Diapason 8′
Tibia Clausa 8′
Clarinet 8′
Cello 8′
Flute 8′
Dulciana 8′
Accomp. to Pedal
Great to Pedal
Solo to Pedal

Accompaniment

Contra Viol (Ten C) 16′
Tuba 8′
Open Diapason 8′
Clarinet 8′
Oboe Horn 8′
Salicional 8′
Voix Celeste (Ten C) 8′
Flute 8′
Vox Humana 8′
Dulciana 8′
Octave 4′
Piccolo 4′
Salicet 4′
Octave Celeste 4′
Flute 4′
Vox Humana 4′
Dulcet 4′
Chrysoglott
Solo Sub Accomp
Solo Unison Accomp
Solo Octave Accomp

Tremulants
Main
Solo
Vox Humana

Great

Tibia Clausa (Ten C) 16′
Oboe Horn (Ten C) 16′
Contra Viol (Ten C) 16′
Bourdon 16′
Tuba 8′
Open Diapason 8′
Tibia Clausa 8′
Clarinet 8′
Oboe Horn 8′
Salicional 8′
Voix Celeste 8′
Flute 8′
Vox Humana 8′
Dulciana 8′
Octave 4′
Piccolo 4′
Salicet 4′
Octave Celeste 4′
Flute 4′
Dulcet 4′
Twelfth 2 2/3′
Cathedral Chimes
Chrysoglott
Solo Sub Great
Solo Unison Great
Solo Octave Great

Tech Information

  • 3/10 Wurlitzer, opus 2185, style R16, (R and RJ styles were residence organs) only 2 units built. Percussion 2, traps 0, Console; SC-Straight bolster console. Wiring schedule 1120.
  • Although not mentioned in the specs, there is a role player mechanism with 290 rolls with 400 songs and a 2nd console.
  • Ranks: Tuba, Open Diapason, Tibia Clausa, Clarinet, Oboe Horn, Salicional, Vox Celeste, Flute, Vox Humana, and Dulciana.
  • Combination action: 5 per manual
  • Console size: 60W x 34D x 57H. Main chest – 7’6” long x 5’6” wide. Solo is much smaller 8′ long x 4′ wide/ Both chests are approx. 8′ high.
  • Tallest pipe: w/chest – 11′ 0”
  • Swell Shades: Main 5′ x 7′, Solo: 5′ x 6′
  • Relays: Key: 6′ x 3’6”, Stop: 4’9” x 3’6”.
  • Tibia chest: 6′ x 8′ x 9”
  • Diapason Chest: 11′ H x 7’6” L x 12” D (18” off floor)
  • Tuba Chest: About the same as Diapason.
  • Flute 16′ Chest: 8′ L x 12” D x 8′ H


Notes
The second console has not been restored. GSTOS has it in storage. We do not have a matching bench.