Our Historic Organ

For news about the restoration of the organ, click here


The organ at Saint Paul’s Church in Salem, New York, is Opus 189 of Elias and George G. Hook of Boston. Built in 1855 for the First Parish Church (Unitarian) in Dorchester, Massachusetts, it is regarded as one of the most important surviving Hooks of the pre-Civil War period.  It was purchased by the vestry of St. Paul's Church in 1888 for the sum of $1,000.00. However, the planned expansion of the church building was delayed and the organ was put into storage.  Finally, with the completion of the south transept, the organ was installed in the church by William J. Stuart & Brother of Albany and was first played in Salem on 23 February 1890.  A quick response by the Salem Volunteer Fire Department saved both the church and its historic organ from destruction in a fire on 11 February 1912 but charred beams under the floor show that the fire came very close to the organ.

Although the organ was preserved from the fire, it could not escape the natural deterioration consequent upon its age and many years of use. Thus, in 2005 the parish entered into a contract with A. David Moore & Company of North Pomfret, Vermont, to restore the organ to its original working condition. That work was carried out over the winter of 2005-2006 and the organ was returned to use on Easter Day 2006.

The instrument has two manual keyboards with a twenty-six-note pedal keyboard and has mechanical (tracker) key action: the only electricity used is for the wind supply. While its mechanical parts are exactly the same as those of organs from the 16th through the late 19th century—and, increasingly, of many new organs of today—tonally, this organ is a bridge between the Classic and Romantic organ sounds.

The Organ Historical Society has placed the instrument on its register of early American organs, both for its outstanding tonal quality and for its excellent state of historically appropriate preservation, the latter due in large part to the efforts and generosity of Winnifred V. Riggle. The organ will be one of the featured instruments during the fiftieth anniversary convention of the society in June 2006.

The specification of the organ follows.


Op. Diapason 8 ft.
Melodia Treble 8 ft.             
Std. Diapason Bass 8 ft.
Viol D'amour 8 ft. [1]
Principal 4 ft.              
Wald Flute 4 ft.       
Twelfth 2-1/2 ft. [2]
Fifteenth 2 ft.
Sesquialtra 3 Ranks [3]   
Trumpet Treble 8 ft.   
Trumpet Bass        

Dble. Op. Diapn. Ped. 16 ft.
Bourdon Ped. 16 ft. [4] 

1 a bell gamba
2 actually 2-2/3'
3 double draw, making Tierce rank optional
4 borrowed from Swell Bourdon Bass; one octave, sounding at 16' pitch from CC-B, then at 32' from C to c, +d


Bourdon Treble 16 ft.
Bourdon Bass 16 ft.
Op. Diapason 8 ft.
Std. Diapn. Treble 8 ft.
Std. Diapn. Bass 8 ft.
Dulciana 8 ft. [5]
Principal 4 ft.
Flute 4 ft. [6]
Fifteenth 2 ft.
Trumpet Treble 8 ft.
Trumpet Bass 8 ft.       
Hautboy 8 ft. [7]

Sw. to Gt. Or.
Gr. Or. to Ped.
Sw. to Pedals
5 begins at Tenor C
6 a chimney flute
7 begins at Tenor C
(The spellings of the stops above are verbatim from the stop-knobs.)

During the restoration, the following changes were made:

(1) for increased flexibility, the Sesquialtra was made a double-draw, so that its Tierce rank could be optional;
(2) a top D was added to the pedals (making the range CC to c, +d) to enlarge the scope of literature that could be playedespecially to include more works of Bach;
(3) the combination action, which was not original, was removed;
(4) the metal swell-shoe was replaced with a "hitch-down" mechanism, based on original parts that were discovered inside the organ chamber;
(5) a new tremulant was installed, to replace the Hutchings-style tremulant, which also was not original to the instrument.


Music from Salem
Don E. Kerr
Ronald Anderson
in an evening of Organ and Trumpet Music
21 May 2004

Ron Anderson leads the applause for Don Kerr at the conclusion of one of the pieces for organ at the May 2004 recital.  Note that the organ case was white before the instrument was restored in 2006.

St. Paul's Church
Mireille Begin Lagacé
in the inaugural recital on the newly restored
E. & G.G. Hook Organ, Opus 189
on 9 June 2006

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