The great auditorium at the Jersey Shore
Ocean Grove, N.J.
The Great Auditorium Organ at Ocean Grove, New Jersey was built by Robert Hope-Jones, the Englishman who immigrated to this country in 1903 and opened his own factory in Elmira, New York in 1907. Ocean Grove, installed in 1908, is certainly his most famous instrument. Built as a 4/13, with tremendous wind pressures, it did an admirable job of filling the vast auditorium with sound. His company received major financial support from Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) who was a member of his board of directors and a great admirer of Hope-Jones. Hope-Jones later partnered with the Wurlitzer company, and became known as the father of the Theatre Pipe Organ for his many contributions to the “unit orchestra”.
The auditorium instrument was dedicated on the evening of July 3, 1908 by concert organist, Mark Andrews, with over eight thousand persons in attendance. During the summer of 1908 famed organist Edwin H. Lemare gave a series of ten daily recitals during the convention of the National Association of Organists.
Hope-Jones (and later Wurlitzer) employee Earle Beach was on the installation crew, and for many years was the Curator of the Ocean Grove organ. After Beach left his position at the Wurlitzer factory, he partnered with the principals of the Griffith Piano Company, Newark, to form the Griffith-Beach Organ Company. The firm built about 10 Theatre Organs, all of which were installed in N.J. venues
Since 1908 the Ocean Grove organ has undergone several rebuilding projects. Beginning in 1974 and continuing through the present, a major expansion program was initiated under the leadership of Auditorium Organist, Dr. Gordon Turk and current Organ Curator, John R. Shaw in an effort to create a more versatile instrument. In keeping with accepted standards of organ construction, full diapason, flute, and reed choruses were built for each of the major divisions. Currently the instrument consists of 10 divisions, totaling 189 ranks and over 11,000 pipes. It is controlled by a 5 manual console. Today the auditorium organ is one of the largest and most famous working pipe organs in the country, and is recognized for its unique tonal subtlety as well as its massive sonority.