James J. Hill Mansion

260 Summit Avenue
St Paul, MN

Builder: Geo. S. Hutchings, Opus 229 (1889)
Manuals: 2
Ranks: 17
Stops: 17
Action: Mechanical

Notes: This house is a museum operated by Minnesota Historical Society. The museum received a grant for the restoration of the organ in 1985.
Updated through online information from Stephen Hall. See notes below.

-- Information from Charles Hendrickson, photos from the Minnesota History Society.
Last Update: 3/2014

8 Open Diapason
8 Melodia
8 Viola di Gamba
4 Octave
4 Flute d’amour
2 Fifteenth
8 Dulciana

8 Geigen Principal
8 Stopped Diapason
8 Quintadena
8 Aeoline
4 Flute Harmonique
2 Flautino
8 Oboe

16 Bourdon

8' Swell to Great
4' Great to Great
8' Swell to Pedal
8' Great to Pedal
-- This is one of several homes built and owned by James J. Hill, who built the Empire Builder rail line from Chicago to Seattle. It is located across the street from the St. Paul Cathedral, which was his church and which he helped to build.
-- Nobody in the Hill family played the organ. After plans had been drawn up for the house Hill noted that his wealthy colleagues on the east coast had organs in their homes. His Boston architect contacted Hutchings (also in Boston) to build an organ for the art room. Since the organ was designed after the room had been planned, its design and installation are impossibly cramped and extremely difficult to service.
-- In 1975 the organ was "resurrected" with duct tape on the reservoir corners and a few new leather pallet pulldowns so it could be used for the regional AGO convention that year. A recording was made by the late Earl Barr.
-- In 1985 the organ was restored by J. C. Taylor. Preservationists at the Historical Society imposed limits on what Taylor was allowed to repair or replace, resulting in a compromised restoration that began to show signs of failure soon thereafter. Certain East Coast design elements are not suited to the extreme humidity conditions of Minnesota winter. It is possible the wood inside the wind chests split within the first few seasons, and the organ has had leaks ever since.
-- According to the Minnesota Historical Society website, the organ is not currently in good condition in spite of the 1985 restoration, the leather needs replacing and there are cracks in the wood pipes. The society is seeking funds to restore the instrument. (website accessed Sept 2011) (Database Manager. 2011-09-23)
-- Two accidental discharges of the Halon fire suppression system in the art room deposited leather-eating chemicals on the large double-rise reservoir. The hinge seams are split (2016) so the reservoir will not inflate. Restoration funds have been allocated for work in 2018 by Dobson Organ Builders (Iowa) and local company Grandall and Engen.
-- In preparation for summer 2017 OHS convention, Grandall and Engen will apply a temporary repair to the reservoir to make the organ playable.
-- Original water motor (inoperable) is in the basement blower room.
-- Swell has a double set of shutters for maximum volume control.
-- Information from David Engen, December, 2016