Brucemore's famous organ finally back in Cedar Rapids

The organ was made in Boston in 1929 and is only one of six remaining in their original location.

After a year-long absence and an over five year process, Brucemore's historic Skinner pipe organ is back inside the mansion. Built in 1929, The Douglas Family, who lived at the mansion at the time, commissioned the organ to be placed inside their home.

"It's an integral part of the house and just really brings a lot to the space and we can use it as a tool to kind of put ourselves back in history back to when the Douglas family lived here," Jessica Peel-Austin, the Museum's program manager said.

The organ normally requires maintenance every 35 years but really hasn't had a complete overhaul since it's installation inside Brucemore. The process started in 2013 an was finished in phases with the main console being the latest part to be back installed. A specialist transported all parts of the organ to Chicago and back. Over 700 pipes, the blower motor and complete console were removed from the building and later reinstalled.

"It was a really amazing process to watch," Peel-Austin said. "We actually had to take the doors off of one side of the mansion in order to get it out. It was amazing to try an figure out how to transport it out of the mansion and bring it back in."

Having an actual organ at a residential location was extremely rare and reserved to very wealthy families. The Skinner organ inside Brucemore is the only one of six that remain at their original location and only one of 93 ever built. It's an organ that can be operated manually but also serves as a player piano with rolls being inserted to be played automatically.

"One of the amazing things about our collection is that we have a roll collection," Peel Austin said. "We can hear the music exactly like the Douglas' heard it, hear the exact selection that they chose and listen to. So it really is a tool for us to give our visitors a complete experience and put them back in a different era of time."

Brucemore is holding their "Music in the Mansion" holiday tours every Sunday and Thursday throughout December. If you are interested in hearing the organ you can click here.

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