Kentucky Theatre (also known as the Lafayette Theatre) opened October
4, 1922 with H. Haden Read at the console of the $25,000 Wurlitzer
Grand Symphony Organ. This organ, opus 562, was Wurlitzer’s first 2/8,
Style “F” (Wurlitzer produced 92 instruments of this type), shipping
date was July 29, 1922.
theatre organ’s stirring music and special effects, under the masterful
hands of Mr. Read, became the heart and soul of the Kentucky Theatre.
Vera Eckert and William Hackney joined Haden Read, chief organist at
the Kentucky Theatre, provided accompaniment to the photoplays
presented on the big screen.
Wurlitzer Company provided several additions to Opus 562. In December
1923, a new Vox Humana was installed in the main chamber. A significant
expansion was completed by Wurlitzer in January 1926 with a new
3-manual paneled console; the original Violin and Violin Celeste were
replaced with a Viol d’Orchestra, Viol Celeste; additional ranks added
were a Brass Trumpet, Quintadena, Oboe Horn, Salicional and Kinura.
With this enlargement, Wurlitzer Job Number 703, this instrument became
a 3/14 Wurlitzer, Style 260 Special. Haden Read rededicated the organ
with a concert program in February 1926. Assisting with the picture
accompaniment at this time were Vera Eckert and William A. Hackney.
rains on June 29, 1928, left downtown Lexington flooded. The Kentucky
Theatre and its Mighty Wurlitzer were inundated with water, resulting
in damages that permanently silenced the theatre organ. The 1927 advent
of “Vitaphone” with its mechanically linked-recorded sound for movies,
installed in the Kentucky Theatre April 24, 1927, negated the need for
restoration of the organ. Haden Read returned to Louisville to open the
Loews-United Artists Theatre and its 3/13 Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ
on September 1, 1928.
abandonment in the Kentucky Theatre for nearly fifty years, Roy Davis
of McMinnville, TN purchased the theatre organ from the owners of the
Kentucky Theatre in March 1977. The organ was removed on April 2, 1977
and was scheduled for delivery to a pizza parlor in the Chicago area.
Oscar Wilson, who loved this instrument since first hearing it in 1926,
made an offer to buy the organ from Roy Davis. The sale was completed
and Wilson employed Heaston Pipe Organ Company of Brownsburg, IN to
rebuild and reinstall it in his Fayette County mansion.
the organ was installed in the Wilson residence, the Bluegrass Chapter
of the American Theatre Organ Society conducted several programs and
regular meetings showcasing the 3/14 Wurlitzer organ. Father Jim Miller
entertained Chapter members and guests on two different occasions with
performances on this Wurlitzer theatre organ. Music samples from these
recorded concerts have been included in the “Recordings for Sale” stop
tab for you listening enjoyment.
Wilson, at the age of 89 and in very poor health, donated his Wurlitzer
theatre pipe organ to the University of Kentucky in November 1989.
Oscar Wilson died in May 1993.
original 3/14 Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ, which has been stored at
the University of Kentucky since 1989, has been provided to Kentucky’s
Mighty Wurlitzer-Theatre Organ Project, Inc by an executed project
agreement for reinstallation in the Kentucky Theatre.
1997, KMW-TOP, Inc hired Carlton Smith Pipe Organ Restorations for
technical assistance for respecification, expansion and restoration, of
the Oscar Wilson (Kentucky Theatre) Wurlitzer theatre organ. Under
technical guidance of internationally recognized theatre organist Mr.
Lyn Larsen, Musical Contrasts, Inc of Phoenix, AZ, the organ was
enlarged to a 3/16 instrument. The organ was expanded with additional
ranks and percussion instruments, including 16’ Tibia Clausa
(12-notes), 16’ Salicional (12-notes), 8’ Brass Saxophone (61-notes),
8’ Orchestral Oboe (61-notes), 8’ English Post Horn (61-notes), 16’
Oboe Horn (12-notes), 2’ Tibia Clausa (12-notes) and 49-note Marimba
harp; and Wurlitzer piano; in addition to variety of miscellaneous
equipment including swell shades, manual chests, reservoirs,
tremulants, winkers, cymbals, solid state relay, computer, blower,
software and record/playback unit.