The Bob Balfour Memorial Wonder Morton Theatre Pipe Organ

Experience the sound of the Theatre Pipe Organ

Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre
54 Journal Square Plaza, Jersey City, N.J.

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During the 1920’s, the Loew’s theatre organization built 5 opulent movie palaces in the New York Metropolitan area. They became known as “Wonder Theatres”. Each was fitted with an identical large Robert Morton Theatre Pipe Organ with “wedding cake” decorated console. Naturally, these instruments became known as “Wonder Mortons”. The Loew’s Jersey, built in the heart of Jersey City on Journal Square was the grandest and most opulent theatre ever built in the state of New Jersey. (The other Wonder Theatres were in 4 New York City Boroughs). Loew’s Jersey was slated for demolition in the 1980’s and its organ was removed to Santa Barbara California, where it was rebuilt and restored to its former grandeur. Meanwhile a grass roots effort by civic minded volunteers was able to save the Loew’s Jersey from the developer’s wrecking ball. Volunteers from Friends of the Loew’s have spent thousands of hours on the theatre restoration effort ever since.

The two GSTOS men who were the driving force behind this restoration have been suitably recognized. The instrument has been named the Bob Balfour Memorial Wonder Morton in memory of Bob Balfour, who sadly did not live to see his dream completed. Bob Martin has been honored as well for his dedicated and expert leadership on the project. ATOS presented him with the Crew Chief’s Certificate of Service, the highest award ATOS bestows on a non-professional organ technician. The Loew’s Jersey eleven year organ restoration and installation by GSTOS volunteers cost $80,000 for parts and outside professional services. Its twin sister “Valencia”, on the other hand, took only five years to be installed in a California theatre, but with the work done entirely by professionals cost $555,000.

Bob Balfour

Bob Martin, Left. Receiving the ATOS
Crew Chief’s Certificate of Service Award



So what is the status of the 5 original Wonder Morton instruments today? We are pleased to report that three of the instruments are restored and actively played, and plans are in the works to restore a 4th!

  • The Loew’s Paradise organ is restored with its original ranks, playing at Loew’s Jersey. (The only instrument of the 5 still playing in a Wonder Theatre).
  • The Loew’s Valencia organ is restored and playing at the Balboa Theatre, San Diego, California.
  • The Loew’s Jersey organ is restored and playing at Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, California.
  • The Loew’s 175th Street organ is still in place in its original Wonder Theatre venue, but is unplayable. The New York Theatre Organ Society has plans to restore it.
  • The Loew’s King’s internal organ parts disappeared while in storage in NYC. The console was later restored by a private collector to control his large Robert Morton organ. The Kings console has been donated back to the restored theatre where it is on display.

See The Wonder Mortons, Where are they now? for more details.