One of the better kept secrets in North Seattle may well be the wonderful theatre pipe organ tucked away in Haller Lake Community Club. With its three manuals (keyboards) and eight sets of organ pipes, it is similar to the organ enjoyed by thousands of patrons at the former “Pizza & Pipes” restaurant in the Greenwood area during the 1970s and ’80s.
Theater organs were developed beginning about 1912 for a specific purpose-to provide accompaniment to the silent movies of the time. When sound came to the big screen in 1927, organs were no longer needed, and the early 1930s brought the end of production. Over the years many were dismantled, lost in fires, moved to other venues such as churches and roller rinks, and some were installed in private residences. A truly American invention, they are a unique part of American musical history.
The organ at HLCC is the focus for a number of events at the Club each year. Valentine’s parties, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, “Pipes & Pizza” events, Oktoberfests and holiday parties become especially unusual and festive with live music provided by talented musicians on the fascinating theater pipe organ.
The instrument is owned and maintained by the Puget Sound Theatre Organ Society (PSTOS), and never had a theater home. Originally installed in Dayton Ohio’s Eagles Hall in 1926, it was eventually sold to a private party who moved it to Seattle in the 1960s. It was acquired by PSTOS and installed in the clubhouse in 1968 through the interaction of members of PSTOS and Haller Lake Community Club. Harry Harkness, then HLCC president, is to be credited with having the vision of the organ as a positive community asset, and helped to pave the way for the two groups to work together to install it. Dick Chang, another active HLCC member, was an enthusiastic part of the installation crew.
For more history and technical specifications for the organ, please see the PSTOS page on it.