News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 3, 2012

Historical Fire Station No. 9 opens for season

Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Historical Fire Station No. 9 at 1728 S. Eighth St. will open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be open until September.

The feature attraction this season will be a 91-year-old Wurlitzer No. 153 pipeband organ. This organ was first used in a carousel in Kansas. Back in the early days, this was the only type of musical instrument available that could be played automatic, using the paper roll system, like the player piano.

There were 3,000 carousels with band organs playing in the United States 75 years ago. Today there are only 69 of them using the old band organs, and they keep them in good working condition. Some carnivals still use them.

The Wurlitzer Band Organ, one of the truly native-made band organs, is a vanishing instrument. Only about 15 No. 153 type are left. The few that are still in use are prized by their owners.

There is a group in the Musical Box Society who are devoted to the restoration and preservation of these fine instruments. Museum curator Tom E. Champion has been restoring them for the past 50 years, starting in 1954. At this time he has a Wurlitzer 146 and a 153 band organ.

The 153 Band Organ with 54 Keys was made in North Tonawanda, N.Y., in 1921.