Our Pipe Organ

Our Pipe Organ

The story of our pipe organs goes back to the days prior to the merger of Columbia Congregational Church and Lakewood Community Church. Over the years, each of the churches came into possession of these very rare pipe organs. When the churches merged into Columbia Lakewood Community Church, they now had two very similar pipe organs. The following writings tell varying stories about these pipe organs. There were different sources for the writings contained on this page and consequently there may be some repetition in content. Where attribution can be made, the source of the information has been identified.

From Ruth E. Hall (June 1983) Entitiled: Columbia Congregational Church Organ History

During Rev. Alvin Smith’s ministry, the choir grew in numbers and everyone hoped we could have a real pipe organ, so with this dream the choir started an organ fund giving concerts. Miss Nina Bonnell, head of music at John Muir School was our choir director. She always had new ideas to keep the choir active with future plans.

By 1940 Arthur Anderson, called Mr. Balcom of Balcom & Vaughn, who built organs, to see if it was possible to buy a rebuilt pipe organ. Mr. Balcom said he had one at a chapel in the north end, The Home Chapel, which Mr. Anderson found out later it had been taken out of a theatre on Greenwood Avenue, some time earlier. The chapel wanted to move the organ and since this could not be done without dismantling, they asked to apply a credit on it upon buying a new organ. This organ was a Hennes pipe organ with a Kimball piano console. Mr. Balcom offered this organ with a new console and relay, piano keyboard, six sets of pipes, the organ rebuilt, delivered and installed at the church for $3,200.00 on contract with one year service. Since the organ was completely rebuilt, it is a “Balcom & Vaughn organ”. On June 29, 1941 the organ was dedicated with Renoldo Baggott as organist. If you will just go back in time, Mr. Baggott was none other than Ron, the team Ron & Don who played on the rising organ at the Paramount Theatre. They were considered the best organists in the Northwest at the time. Special concerts with special organists were booked and played in church. Some were Robert Rank, Robert Smith and Ed Hanson, who has been at Plymouth Church for some time. We may note in the church that a thermometer was posted showing how much was collected from time to time. Soon our dream was realized and the contract was paid in full.

During July of 1891, three more manual sets, one big pedal set, and a 16 foot double open diapason and more pipes were added and the organ was moved. the outside woodwork was redone by Arthur Anderson to match the pews. The cost for this work was $2,200.00 to Balcom and Vaughn for a total of $5,400.00 invested. This cost was no doubt paid from the remodel loan taken out at this time. Ernest Nye was the organist for this dedication. There has been further additions or pipes at least twice, I remember, besides it has been serviced from time to time. Mr Balcom says to replace this good an organ today would cost $48,700.00, so we should realize that after 42 years of service, we still have a fine organ to be proud of.

Footnote: The organ resides in Columbia Congregational Church from 1923 until the merger with Lakewood Community Church in 1993.

From Bev Denton written in 2005

We are a very unique church of parishioners from the Church of the Brethren and Congregational backgrounds who came together in 1993 and now worship in the Lakewood building.

When the Columbia church building was sold, the new church parishioners did not plan to use the pipe organ (opting for an electric keyboard) so the organ was crated and carefully moved to Lakewood where it has been stored in the organ loft.

In 2002, we learned of the non-profit Pipe Organ Foundation and we contacted Carl Dodrill to ask his foundation if we could qualify for their help in combining the two organs. We were pleased to be accepted and the project’s “phase one” began with essential repairs to be done to the existing Lakewood organ. After all the repairs were completed, a Saturday was devoted to the cleaning of 500 pipes under the direction of the Dodrill family. “Phase two” will complete the task of adding as many pipes as possible to give the church that full and complete organ that we have hoped and dreamed of. The foundation will continue to maintain the organ and the second console and all duplicate or extra pipes will be donated to the foundation for their ongoing efforts to help small churches have and maintain pipe organs.

An excerpt from the Pipe Organ Foundation

Columbia Lakewood Community Church has a II/7 1960 Balcom and Vaugh organ which was playing poorly. In 2003, the church decided it was time to clean and tune the organ. The Foundation has gone through the organ, fixed most of the problems, and tuned it in time for Christmas, 2003. In 2004, the organ chamber was to be cleaned including washing the pipes. Tonal refinishing followed. Our churchalso has a second Balcom and Vaughn, an II/9 from 1961 in storage, and plans are being made to take portions of this second organ and add them to the first, expanding the final instrument. Duplicate components will be contributed to the foundation when the project is done.

Note: Carl Dodrill is president of the Pipe Organ Foundation and was instrumental in the cleaning and restoration of the Columbia Lakewood Community Church pipe organ. If you are interested in finding out more about the foundation, please select the link below which will take you directly to the foundation’s web site.