The Village of Haverstraw, NY, sits on the west bank of the Hudson River at its widest point, 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan. Between 1852 and 1941, thanks to rich clay deposits along the river, the town was home to over 40 brick making companies, which at the height of the industry, shipped over 300 million bricks a year to New York City. Many elegant brick structures in the village bear testimony to this bygone industry. Among these is St. Peter’s Church, built in 1869.
Founded in 1848, St. Peter’s is the oldest Catholic parish in Rockland County. It is a vibrant, multi-ethnic parish with a thriving grammar school, three priests, over 1,600 parishioners and six well-attended Masses each weekend, one of which is in Spanish.
When the church, which seats 750, was consecrated in 1899 it was graced with side galleries, stained glass windows, a Carrara marble altar rail, a Meneely (of West Troy, NY) 10 bell chime and a 2-manual, 28-rank 1898 Jardine & Son organ (Opus 1248). Remarkably, all of these adornments still remain in the church! Though the bells now have electric strikers, the organ still has its original mechanical action.
We were contacted by the pastor on the recommendation of noted organ historian Jonathan Ambrosino. An attempted renovation in 2007, by an inexperienced organ tuner, had left the organ partly disassembled and unplayable. We examined the organ in early 2010 and drew up a detailed inventory of the missing pipes and parts, which were subsequently returned to the church.
In January 2011 we removed the entire organ, except for its structural frame and case, to our shop for a comprehensive restoration. The manual and pedal windchests received new crosshatched plywood tables in place of the cracked solid wood originals; their wooden sliders were re-shimmed and the pallets recovered with new felt and leather. The large 6’ x 12’ double rise, inverted fold reservoir was releathered. The manual keyboards received new, legally-sourced ivory natural coverings to replace deteriorating plastic which had been put on in the 1960s. The badly-worn pedalboard received new maple naturals and ebony-plated sharps. The creaky bench was rebuilt and refinished. All wooden pipes were cleaned, repaired and refinished. All of the metal pipes were washed and fitted with new aluminum tuning sleeves, replacing the rusting steel ones. The 39 façade pipes were stripped of three decorative paint layers. Our friend and historic paint conservator, Marylou Davis of Woodstock CT, painstakingly uncovered and documented the original stencil patterns and colors, which we repainted under her supervision.
In the course of restoring the organ it became apparent that this was no ordinary Jardine. Research revealed that this was the first Jardine overseen by Carleton C. Michell (c.1835-1921) — an English organ builder who enjoyed a great reputation on both sides of the Atlantic. Michell’s best-known work in England is the “Grove” organ in Tewkesbury Abbey, built for the London Inventions Exhibition of 1885 in partnership with William Thynne. Michell came to America in the 1880s and collaborated with several Boston firms before joining Jardine in September of 1897 to assume the artistic direction of the firm. Matthew Bellocchio, Andover’s Project Team Leader for this restoration, was very familiar with Michell’s work. In 1989, while at the Roche Organ Company, he oversaw Roche’s restoration of the Michell-voiced 3-manual 1899 Jardine & Son organ (Opus 1257) at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Taunton, MA – Jardine’s last major instrument. Matthew found a number of similarities in the pipe construction and voicing of the Haverstraw and Taunton instruments, which are only nine opus numbers apart. Dated signatures in two Haverstraw windchests show that they were built in the summer of 1898, just 2 months before the Taunton chests.
This being a strict restoration of an important historical instrument, no changes were made to organ’s stop list or voicing. However, several supplementary improvements were made to its function and appearance. The wind line from the blower was re-engineered to permit better access in the organ for tuning and maintenance. A return air duct was installed in the rear wall so the blower (located in the unheated tower room) will draw heated air from the organ interior, to improve the instrument’s tuning stability. New music lights on the case, as well as wall spotlights to illuminate the restored façade pipes were installed and wired by a St. Peter’s parishioner.
The organ was reinstalled in St. Peter’s during the fall of 2011. Our voicer, Don Glover, was in charge of the tonal regulation. At a special parish Mass on Saturday evening, 5 November 2011, the restored instrument was solemnly blessed and rededicated by the Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York.
Andover employees who worked on this project were: Ryan Bartosiewicz, Matthew Bellocchio, Anne Doré, Michael Eaton, Donald Glover, Al Hosman, Lisa Lucius, Benjamin Mague, Tony Miscio, Felicia Morlock, John Morlock, Donald Olson, Jonathan Ross, Craig Seaman and David Zarges.