As someone who remembers the Mosque and Eddie Weaver there, I want to do my part to get some attention to the current situation there. I am reposting a letter from Bill Van Pelt that will bring you current with what’s going on and give you a link to express your feeling to the government officials if you so desire. Note that Bill asks you to invite friends and other interested parties to share and comment. (There is a “share” button below for convenience.)
Subject: Landmark Theater Wurlitzer Imperiled
June 8, 2012
Dear Fellow Members, Richmond Chapter, AGO
RE: Wurlitzer pipe organ, Landmark Theater (formerly The Mosque)
After an upcoming renovation of the Landmark Theater was announced in the Times-Dispatch on Monday, May 7, it was learned that the theater management has plans to remove the Wurlitzer console soon, ostensibly to protect it when renovations get underway (perhaps years hence), but the console removal will actually serve a different goal: to free the space it occupies so that the space may be used for other purposes including additional seating.
The three-manual, 17-rank Wurlitzer pipe organ was installed when the building was completed in 1927 and has accompanied the lives of Richmonders ever since. The organ was famous for initiating the long-lived revival of interest in the theatre organ, generally, after World War II, when Richmond native Harold Warner renovated it and Reginald Foorte made his famous recordings on it in the early 1950s.
Removing the console will mean the currently playable instrument will become unplayable and possibly irretrievable unless plans and funding to reinstall it are both certain. During previous renovations of the building, the console of the organ remained in place and was protected via the construction of an inexpensive box-like cover made of 2×4 lumber, plywood, and plastic sheeting.
If the console is removed, re-installing it will be very expensive. For this reason, the console has not been removed or disconnected since it was installed in 1927.
Removal of the console would require severing the large cable containing thousands of individually cotton-wrapped copper wires which connect the keyboards, stops, and other controls of the console to the thousands of pipes and other mechanisms located in chambers which are situated behind grille work on both sides of the auditorium, just outside the proscenium. Reconnecting the console will cost tens of thousands of dollars (one competent estimate is $80,000) because the National Electrical Code requires such low-voltage control circuits to be entirely rewired with plastic-covered conductors in a cable, whereas existing cotton-covered conductors continue to meet the Code unless they are disconnected.
In generally approving the renovation of the Landmark Center, Richmond City Council has, in effect and perhaps unwittingly, approved killing the Wurlitzer. Had Council been fully informed, Council members surely would have been sensitive to the desire of constituents to keep this musical treasure of the city from becoming silent.
A knowledgeable consultant to the city, such as Lin Lunde (who would not seek the project for the firm he represents) should advise the City on the portion of this project affecting the organ, both for its protection and for planning its future use. Until correct information flows from a short study and it is absorbed, and a good plan is devised, Council MUST stop the impending and very embarrassing misstep. It is apparent that these matters are beyond the expertise or interest of the Landmark Theater’s management.
Please join me in writing to members of the Richmond City Council and inviting your friends and other interested parties to do so. Members of Council and their e-mail and post office addresses appear here:
Today, I have written to each member of Council and to the Mayor, and to their liaisons, about the matter. I have done this in my own name, and not representing the AGO or any other entity. Thanks for considering it.
Bill Van Pelt